As recently as the past presidential election the administration was assuring the country that the threat of Islamist terrorism had all but disappeared. Osama bin Laden was dead and General Motors was alive, the stable and democratic Iraq that America had left behind was one of the administration’s greatest achievements, that unpleasantness in Libya was a mere matter of an internet video that had unnecessarily offended Muslim sensibilities, and a deft mix of multi-cultural sensitivity and lethal drone strikes had left the Islamists on the run. There was no longer any need for an American military presence in the Middle East, such such measures as the previous administration’s harsh interrogation policy and Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp were no longer necessary, and the number of guns could now be reduced to pre-World War II levels in order to pay pay more butter.
It was an appealing point of view, and if you were willing to overlook that 13 deaths that resulted from the “workplace violence” of a man shouting Alahu Akhbar at a Texas army base or the ambassador and the three other Americans who died as a result of that unnecessarily offensive internet video or the slaughter being inflicted by Islamists in a variety of countries it was persuasive enough to win the administration re-election. Lately, however, the administration has been striking a more worrisome tone. No less an administration official than the Secretary of Defense is describing the Islamic State in Levant, the terrorist group that the president dismissed as a “jayvee” team last January and has since conquered a portion of Syria and Iraq the size of Belgium, as “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Among assets ranging from captured American military equipment to billions of dollars of stolen money to an overpowering ruthlessness, the group also claims more than 500 soldiers who hold western passports that will be waved through any airport in the United States, and a Democratic Senator loyal to the administration is among those warning that the president’s hometown Chicago seems a likely target. Even the president himself was obliged to delay his tee time at the Martha’s Vineyard golf course to deliver an impassioned remark about the beheading of an American journalist captured by ISIL, although he did assure the public that his Attorney General was working up an indictment and that the good guys always win.
The more worrisome tone has resulted in some action, including air strikes against ISIl that have apparently slowed its advance toward Baghdad, some of those always foreboding military advisors heading back to the once stable and democratic Iraq they had left behind, and a complete withdrawal from the Libya that our earlier airstrikes had liberated from a quiescent dictator and descended into the chaos that led to all the unpleasantness over that unnecessarily offensive internet video and where the Islamists now control the airport on the shores on the Tripoli. All of this is well and good, we suppose, and the administration should be commended for what must be a painful acknowledgment that the president’s Cairo speech and his boyhood days in an Indonesian madrassa and his uncanny ability to not do stupid stuff haven’t resulted in the promised world peace. We doubt that this administration is willing to deviate any further from its past campaign poses, though, and that leave us all the more worrisome.
Those western passports flying in from Syria and Iraq probably won’t get any more scrutiny than those of the wheelchair-bound old Eglish ladies behind them in the the line, lest the administration be accused of racial profiling, which it only countenances in the case of white police officers involved in a shooting. Our intelligence community might get wise to a terror plot against Chicago if it runs through your phone or internet connection, but they won’t learn about it by harshly interrogating a prisoner who has been brought to Guantanamo Bay. We’ll continue to seek diplomatic solutions, much like the ones that that have been going on with Iran during the past many years of their progress toward a nuclear weapon, but it’s hard to imagine even the most diplomatic diplomatic gaining any substantial concessions from the people who chop the heads off American journalists. Another aircraft carrier has been sent to the South China Sea to counter the aggressions that the Chinese hate lately made to take advantage of America’s suddenly many distractions in the Middle East and eastern Europe, but we don’t expect that the administration’s next budget proposal will include the money for what the Navy says it needs. Those military advisors might have some good ideas for the under-funded and under-armed allies who face our same enemies, but perhaps they’ll also tell them to fight with the same restraint that has been urged on our Israeli allies in their most recent fight against the same barbarism.
The Islamist threat to the world order has been around since it started attacking trade caravans some 1,300 years ago, and has driven as far into the western world as the Iberian Peninsula and the gates of Venice, and was seizing American sailors before our country had been around long enough to give any offense to Muslim sensibilities, and was never going to be pacified with profound oratory or even the most exquisitely sensitive treatment. The good guys have gotten the better of it for most of that that arduous time, and might yet ultimately prevail, but it’s going to take guns rather than butter and a willingness to admit that a war is ongoing.
— Bud Norman