President Barack Obama, sometimes too cool for his own good, didn’t flash the anger Monday that many might have wanted in response to the Paris terror attacks.
The strategy he defended for confronting the Islamic State may not satisfy a thirst for revenge, but it is far more tough-minded and realistic than the weak lashing out being called for by his warmongering critics.
The president is right: It would be a mistake to send tens of thousands of U.S. troops to root out militants in Syria. While they would succeed, Obama said it would require a long-term occupation to maintain those gains.
The Islamic State is far more an ideology than an army, so even if it is defeated in Syria, what if it resurfaces in Libya or Yemen or elsewhere? Would we send ground forces there as well?
Our all-voluntary military would be worn down. A war-weary public would not support it. Islamic State leaders have made clear they want to drag the United States and the West into a never-ending war. The president is wise not to play into their hands, though of course, if there’s an attack in America, all bets are off.
Instead of changing his strategy, Obama said he will intensify it, pointing out successes in recent days. Airstrikes apparently killed “Jihadi John,” who beheaded Western hostages in horrific videos, and another Islamic State leader in Libya.
Obama stressed that victory will take a coalition of nations, but that requires that he show more leadership and put more pressure on Muslim allies. Their leaders say the terrorists don’t represent true Islam. It’s time to prove it.
During Monday’s news conference in Turkey, Obama was most passionate about the plight of Syrian refugees, who are fleeing these same bloodthirsty terrorists. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said.
The refugee crisis is much more urgent for Europe than for America, across a wide ocean. There’s no plausible way to screen the tens of thousands of migrants flooding the continent.
The Paris attack reinforces that the best approach to the refugee crisis is also the safest – to help migrants closer to Syria by providing much more aid to neighboring nations – and that the ultimate solution is to end the Syrian civil war.
We have to remember that the victims of terrorism are on the streets of Raqqa as well as the streets of Paris.