Amid a Democratic revolt over President Barack Obama’s paralytic approach to the threat posed by the Islamic State, his liberal supporters are mounting a counteroffensive in the press. Obama is not demonstrating blithe unresponsiveness to the inhumanity displayed by ISIS militants in the Middle East’s new fundamentalist caliphate state. He is being “cautious,” quite unlike you-know-who.
They do not invoke the name Bush; doing so has become a parodic expression of inadequacy. They do, however, imply that Obama’s thoughtful approach to this nightmare in the Mideast is a welcome change from certain unspecified policies of the past.
“He is being cautious,” CNN political analyst Gloria Borger declared. “And everybody would agree that’s a good thing – nobody in this country wants boots on the ground or to go to war.”
“We have someone who is careful and cautious and also somebody who, I think, views everyone watching things around the world with their hair on fire,” Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart declared. “He sees himself as someone, it’s his job to tamp it down.”
When former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson echoed the conspicuously ubiquitous exculpation — that Obama is just displaying an abundance of caution — his interlocutor, MSNBC host Krystal Ball, said she found this approach “refreshing.”
She made this remark just as news broke that video had emerged featuring another American hostage, journalist Steven Sotloff, being executed by Islamic State terrorists. He, too, was beheaded.
The notion that this approach to a direct threat to national security and American personal safety is as good as it gets is, for many, merely an expression of fealty to a formative time in their lives. It is a perfunctory gesture to a worldview aimed at avoiding introspection. It is an elaborate attempt to avoid confronting the unthinkable notion that the great hope has not only failed to improve on the conditions left to him by his predecessor, he has made them so much worse.
There is nothing intellectually sound about displaying “caution” in the face of such brazen affronts to American dignity, even if that were what we are witnessing from the president. But that is not what we are witnessing. What we are seeing is abject fear. Obama’s actions are an admission to all who possess even a rudimentary capacity for intellectual honesty that he has no idea what to do. There are no easy answers for those looking to address the crisis in the Middle East, so the president has chosen none of the above.
In Monday’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks offered a tepid defense of the president and the multitude of menaces that he is failing to confront. Doing his best to absolve the nonentity in the Oval Office of consequences for his inaction, Brooks asserted that ISIS, Russia, Islamist militias in the failed state of Libya, China’s revanchism in the South China Sea, and other threats to the geopolitical status quo are merely a collective “revolt of the weak.”
“We are not living in a moment of immediate concrete threat,” he wrote, “but we are in a crisis of context.”
These are not notional security threats, but threats to civilization itself. Well, that’s comforting. If only the smart set would contextualize for us why these and other profligate acts of war are not that, but merely some form of kinetic diplomacy.
Our intellectual betters are rationalizing their own cowardice. They are subjecting their morality to what they believe is a cerebral check on their base, animal impulses. But it is not rationality we are witnessing, it is bankruptcy. We are under attack, and it will not end because we chose not to respond.