The entire Washington establishment has shifted into a dangerous reactive problem solving mode in confronting terrorism. From news media personalities to the political hacks who convinced us to invade Iraq in the first place, the public is being bombarded with desperate calls for immediate action in far too many places.
Today’s frantic consensus seems to be that ISIS is our most serious threat and Obama must do everything he can to destroy it, no matter how much support he can get from other countries. His critics, in denial of their own role in bringing us to where we are, say his insistence on turning Iraq over to the Iraqis is the cause of its problems.
Since Egypt is a huge influence in the region, they’ve said that Obama should put more effort into supporting its pro-American interests there. They use the growing terrorist threats that emanate from places like Syria, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan — and even the United Kingdom and from within the U.S. — as evidence that Obama hasn’t taken the actions required to make our country safe.
Somehow he should have been able to figure out how to extricate us from the centuries-old religious wars the Bush administration put us in the middle of, and that are now springing up everywhere. These wars between fundamentalist religious groups are especially vicious and interminable because they support the belief that dying for your religion is the best way to exit this miserable world. That’s not the kind of war we’re good at fighting — or getting out of.
So, what’s Obama to do? Given the belief that our best defense against terrorism is to kill other people before they can kill us, all he has to do is make sure he kills the right fundamentalists. In the process, he also has to make sure he doesn’t get the U.S. itself blamed for waging a religious war. If that should ever happen, he’d create a terrorist threat without end.
Oh yes, that’s not all. In another part of the world, North Korea has atomic weapons and Obama should be taking a tougher stand against its leaders. Let belligerent opponents get away with saying nasty things and you just encourage them. Then, there’s Putin and Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Putin has warned those who would oppose him that he has atomic bombs and the power to deliver them. Isn’t it time Obama rattled our own atomic bomb cage and pointed out that he can be just as belligerent as Putin?
On the other hand, there’s another way to interpret what Obama is or should be doing — and just may be doing very well. Instead of spreading ourselves all over the map and playing a reactive game of terrorist whack-a-mole, he’s proactively analyzing all the threats to our nation and, given the limits of our resources and power, prioritizing the most effective ways to deal with them.
Chuck Kelly is a retired management consultant living in Burnsville and is author of The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation and Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.