SAN DIEGO – When making excuses for inaction on difficult issues, President Obama has declared that he is “not a king.”
You had better believe it.
For one thing, as we’ve learned over the last few weeks, Obama is no King Abdullah II.
During the Iraq War, many Americans lacked confidence in George W. Bush to prosecute the military campaign effectively, but they seemed to have more respect for our coalition partner, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Now, in the war against the Islamic State, some Americans fear that Obama is insufficiently committed to the cause, and – on social media, talk radio and letters to newspapers – they’re cheering on Abdullah for acting swiftly and boldly when confronted with evil.
Some U.S. media outlets quickly picked up on the theme, with stories declaring that the Islamic State had – in a strategic blunder – “[expletive] with the wrong king.”
When Islamic State militants released a video showing the immolation of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, a 26-year-old Jordanian pilot who was captured while participating in airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition, the Jordanian ruler did not waste time making speeches.
The people of Jordan marched in the streets and demanded revenge. Abdullah gave it to them. Jordan immediately executed two al-Qaida prisoners, including Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi failed suicide bomber whose release the militants had tried to secure.
According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, U.S. officials tried in vain to persuade Abdullah not to kill the prisoners. That sort of meddling is consistent with the recent criticism by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. On Twitter, the possible 2016 GOP candidate derisively referred to Obama’s stated goal of “strategic patience” in matters of foreign policy.
Meanwhile, the Jordanian air force pounded the Islamic State, destroying 56 Islamic State targets in three days. Jordan has vowed to keep up the bombing campaign until the group is destroyed.
Notice the tone. When Americans are killed abroad, as was, most recently, Kayla Mueller, an aid worker and Islamic State hostage from Arizona, Obama administration officials often sound like U.S. prosecutors going after a burglar or carjacker when they promise to “find and bring to justice” the culprits.
Abdullah apparently has a different idea of what constitutes justice. He vowed to decimate these monsters. Period.
And while it’s true that the United States has, in the last five months, led a coalition responsible for more than 2,000 airstrikes, Jordan’s go-it-alone response was nonetheless impressive. It carried out the attacks on its own without asking anyone’s permission.
The murder of the pilot was considered personal, and the reaction was primal. After the first wave of bombings, Air Force Gen. Mansour al-Jabour told reporters, “We achieved what we were looking for: revenge for Muath. And this is not the end. This is the beginning.”
Now, Obama is looking for a new beginning in the war against the Islamic State. This past week, he asked Congress to approve a resolution formally giving the administration the authority to use military force.
It’s about time. It was back in August that the Islamic State made it clear it was already at war with the United States when it beheaded American journalist James Wright Foley and recorded the grisly act in a propaganda video. And, in case we didn’t get the message, in September, the Islamic State beheaded Steven Sotloff, another American journalist.
Enraged Americans want the perpetrators punished. Obama offers up moral relativism. In a recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, he compared terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam to the Crusades in making the point that evil acts done in the name of religion are nothing new.
Even now, Obama doesn’t seem up to the task of making war. The military authorization he seeks is valid for only three years, and it sets the condition that there won’t be troops on the ground. Obama says he is not interested in placing the United States on “a perpetual war-time footing” in that part of the world.
“As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East,” he said in his public remarks about his request to Congress. “That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat [the Islamic State].”
But going to war isn’t that simple. As a certain king already knows.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.