President Obama’s short speech to the nation and world about the ISIS/ISIL threat was so chocked full of falsehoods that it almost seems futile to attempt to clarify the issue. The most ludicrously false utterance was this: “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.”
Even if “we the people” were still intact and minimally cohesive as a people, which we haven’t been for over a generation, the United States could not fill the vacuum at the core of the global society. No single nation, or even group of nations can.
Besides, as Obama said in the opening line of his address the day before the 9.11 anniversary, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.” Not the people of the world, the American people. That’s what nations almost always do—put their interests ahead of the interests of humanity as a whole.
Despite that inherent contradiction, a true leader, like Lincoln, reaches for universal principles. That’s how they achieve greatness. When the world needed and wanted a leader with a vision for humanity, Barack Obama stuck with national interest, narrowly defined. He is a mediocrity.
During the Cold War, the superpowers brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation at least twice. Back during the Gorbachev days, when there was a real chance for Americans to work with Russians, a close aide to Mikhail said something that indicated a real understanding of Americans. “We are going to do the worst thing to you,” he remarked, “we are going to deprive you of an enemy.”
Vladimir Putin has been obliging our need for an enemy of late. Before the ISIS barbarity exploded in the news entertainment market, the conventional and conformist media was atwitter with attempts to read his evil intentions in Ukraine and beyond. The United States has taken it upon itself to lead the world in isolating a country that comprises one-eighth of the world’s landmass. Yeah, that’ll work.
Now the enemy de jour is ISIS. Or is it ISIL? Or IS? Obama can’t even get the media to agree on an acronym; how can he seriously propose, “America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners?”
With his finger to the fetid winds in America, which blow both toward war and away from war weariness, Obama has ramped up his rhetoric as he has ramped up his militaristic reaction to what his administration calls ISIL. Through air strikes and the plausible deniability of an increasing number of Special Forces (given the nauseatingly repeated domestic red line of ‘boots on the ground’), the United States is going all in on “snuffing out” the terrorist threat without a vision or goal.
It’s terribly ironic that the strategy of containment, which worked for 40 years with the Soviet Union, and ultimately led to its downfall, cannot be openly considered with ISIL. The reason is that besides a clearly defined enemy, Americans demand complete safety and security. That means the total defeat of the terrorists that threaten us in mostly imagined ways.
ISIS/ISIL wants to draw America into another war with another stateless network, albeit one that has seized terror-tory across the colonial line in the sand between Syria and Iraq. They’re succeeding.
Words matter. Is it a war, or not? Is the ‘war on terror’ a war or not?
Taking his boot from the ground and placing it firmly in his mouth, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, intoned: “This is not the Iraq war of 2003, but make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIS, in the same way we are at war and continue to be at war with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.” Given that there is no such thing as a ‘war on terror,’ and that the invasion of Iraq gave rise to this waking nightmare, that was doubly dumb.
There is a clearly coordinated campaign to end the Obama Administration’s squishiness about ISIL, epitomized by Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark, “it’s a heightened level of counterterrorism campaign.”
Muddying already toxically murky waters, Kerry added, “I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that, but obviously it involves kinetic military action.” Ah yes, the old kinetic military action.
Untying this Gordian knot is an exercise in futility, so let’s cut through it. Everything that’s wrong with the ‘war on terror’ begins with conceiving and propagandizing it as a war. That began with George Bush, who was as unequivocal about his preemptive war against Iraq as he was about his war against the tactic of terrorism.
Obama has set a new standard for equivocation. He follows the illogical premise that there’s no reason the United States of America can’t have things both ways. Now he’s sounding more and more like Bush.
Let’s be clear: the fight against terrorism is not a war and never will be. War is a complete breakdown of civilization, a senseless, bloody conflict between relatively equal opponents. War is the highest expression of man’s bottomless stupidity. The only reason for using the terminology of war is propaganda arising from the need for an enemy, an ‘other’ that can be defeated.
The escalation of fear, rhetoric and militarism is playing right into the hands of evil. The Islamic State wants to draw America and the world into a wider conflagration. Pursuing confused and contradictory policies, we may well get another real war, which will make the two Iraq wars look like skirmishes.