While observing President Obama address the nation about the global threat ISIS/ISISL poses to humanity and his strategy for confronting it, it became apparent, just how many fronts this war against religious extremism must be fought. Wisely avoiding the “Western way of life” vs. Islam narrative his critics have embraced, the president appealed for calm and common sense. He acknowledged the nation’s concerns moving forward, while assuring the fearful the United States and its allies were fully engaged with the enemy.
Targeted air strikes, the deployment of special operations units, global intelligence gathering, public vigilance and remaining committed to American values seems to be the plan. Making the case that mounting a grand invasion force to face off against an extremely flexible and adaptable adversary would not only be prohibitively expensive, but also unsustainable sounded sensible. And in light of the fact that precious few actionable or even intelligible ideas or solutions have been offered by the president’s detractors, it makes sense to stay this course until someone does.
His fifteen minute address to the nation should have made sense even to the president’s senseless critics. Unfortunately, only time will tell if the president’s sensible plan can withstand the inevitable political fear mongering by those campaigning for the 2016 presidential election. With GOP candidates calling for carpet bombing, Muslim registration, special identification cards, religious test, bringing back water-boarding for interrogations and targeting families of Muslim suspects, it appears common sense has given way to utter nonsense.
Because the ISIS/ISIL threat is real and present in the U.S., yet its reach remain unknown, those marketing fear have almost limitless ammunition to attack and undermine the president’s strategy. Because the president’s plan is rooted in reality, progress will be slow. Because that progresswill be slow, the nation will need t o be patient. Because America is not a very patient nation, fear mongering critics will be poised to pounce on any incident even remotely related to terror to make a case for locking down the country and locking up the Muslims.
Because the fear mongers are in America’s driver’s seat now, nobody knows where the country is going. But, this much is certain. Fear is driving Americans to line up at gun shops to purchase weapons for protection. Fear is driving Americans to look at their neighbors, coworkers and friends with suspicion. Fear is driving Americans to give the government even more authority over their lives. Fear is driving Americans to shoot first and ask questions later. Fear is redefining rational behavior.
Bottom line: President Obama has less than 18 months in the White House to fight the fear mongers for control of the strategy and the direction of the nation. His strategy to keep ISIS/ISIL in check until it can be neutralized and eradicated will take time and a lot of it. Unfortunately, until the president can show even marginal results toward neutralizing and eradicating ISIS/ISIL, he’ll have to fight just as hard neutralizing and eradicating the American fear mongers.