When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety — our own security — depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth….
Yes, that is what sets this nation apart. We are the nation that will go halfway ’round the world to save endangered and oppressed people. And we are the one nation that can do that, time and again. We have the power; we have the resources. And therefore we have the moral obligation.
That’s not the only reason we must “degrade and destroy” ISIL. It also involves doing “what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for.”
The monsters of ISIL must be stopped. And we’re the ones to do it. It’s great that the president is enlisting others to help. But it’s going to depend on us, and our resolve to end this evil.
I thought he did a good job making the case. The difference between this action and Iraq War II is the justification for it–what he referred to in his Nobel speech as a necessary war. I hope (but doubt) that our involvement remains one of air support for Iraqi (and other regional) ground troops. I am gratified that he called on Congress to step up–if we go to war, we must do it as a nation.
You think there are any Iraqi or Afghanistan people who don’t have such glowing reviews after seeing family members killed as collateral damage? We break more than we fix.
Full transcript of the Obama speech:
This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the national interest.
In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult period of the war in Iraq and Syria, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me.
In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.
But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.
I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations.
From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the ISIL matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.
I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.
To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Biden will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.
Best tweet I saw in response to Obama’s speech:
Meet the new war, same as the old war.
“ISIL have no idea what to do about this $#!+.”
– @BarackObama to WH Press Corps, 9/10/14
Tweted by Jim Treacher
As someone who deals with social media professionally, I feel I should advise you that God may not actually write those Tweets. There’s no blue check mark…
Nice satire, Silence….
Meanwhile, my wife will attest that I found myself muttering at the screen multiple times “OK, please name those countries who have officially agreed to participate in this ‘joint venture’.”
I especially wanted to hear that some other countries in the region are finally willing to put as much on the line to deal with these murderous thugs as the U.S. is. Hello, calling Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan. Anyone? Anybody there?
He never did. And that disappointed me.
I’m worried that our President is selling us on the idea that this will somehow be a bloodless war against ISIS without casualties. I’m worried that people are going to have unrealistic expectations of victory without sacrifice. I have a bad feeling that many people are viewing this upcoming war with ISIS in the same manner that many Americans viewed the Civil War in those first few weeks.
I can’t shake the image of the wealthy civilians from Washington who came to picnic and watch the first battle of Manassas, expecting an easy Union victory, but who then had to flee in panic after McDowell’s forces crumbled.
I’m not saying that we’re going to see casualties on the magnitude of the Civil War. However, I’m worried that people are not being realistic about what is required to defeat a ruthless, committed army. There will be casualties. Men will die. This isn’t going to be easy.
And I’m worried that our leadership is not disabusing people of this reality.
Our leadership has no stomach for asking the American people to sacrifice, or even to accept sacrifice on their behalf.
Let me add quickly that the administration before this had the same problem. As did the one before that…
In fact, there have been no blood, sweat and tears speeches in my lifetime.
Define sacrifice. Higher taxes for everyone? Mandatory draft for all young men and women? What are you willing to give up to degrade and destroy ISIS? I’d rather not sacrifice anything on a useless endeavor.
In 15 years when we are still fighting the War on Terror, which of you fathers/grandfathers will be encouraging your sons and daughters to enlist?
Sign me up for the higher taxes and the draft. Of course, they won’t take me, and wouldn’t take me when I was young, either, but that’s not my fault. I think they SHOULD take me. There’s got to be something I can do…
Sign me up also for rationing, starting with gasoline.
Jimmy Carter tried a “national sacrifice” speech and all he got was grief. Reagan, on the other hand, muttered a bunch of nonsense about “morning in America” or some such tripe and he was hailed as a sort of messiah. Carter was right of course, we did need to reduce our energy consumption and seek out alternatives which we are doing now as oil consumption drops while wind and solar energy come on line (quietly). But being right doesn’t always win popularity.
Leadership is a specific quality. So is persuasiveness. So is knowledge/foresight. They are not always found together in the same people.
You left out, Bud, that Reagan also was correct about some things, too. It’s a heck of a post to occupy.
I don’t think there’s any way to “win” this without American boots on the ground.
I think you’re right, Silence. But I could be wrong. I said the same when Clinton ruled out ground troops in Kosovo, but we did get the job done with air alone.
That said, whether ground troops are eventually necessary or not, it is highly problematic to rule out the option at the outset. In any conflict, we need to be prepared to employ whichever tactics are necessary to chi eve success.
Success in this case, of course, being defined by POTUS as not only degrading, but destroying ISIL…
How many lives and billions have been spent to degrade (significantly) but certainly not destroy Al Qaeda?
You don’t think al Qaeda has been rendered combat ineffective, or hors de combat, or whatever term of art you may choose to use to describe an enemy who has been, for practical purposes, destroyed?
I see ISIL as being the far scarier (fielding an army, controlling territory) offspring of the now far less consequential al Qaeda…
I don’t know why my iPad thinks “chi eve success” makes more sense than “achieve success.”
Silence elaborate on the word “win”. We “won” in Iraq, twice. And yet we still have the problem. Actually, more to the point, we CREATED the problem. It’s an absurd comment without any relevance whatsoever. It’s a standard piece of go-to conservative rhetoric that just has no meaning.
What we should strive for is “security”. That will not be advanced one iota by some sort of Pyrrhic Victory over ISIL any more than it did with Iraq. And just for the record we “lost” in Vietnam and our security never suffered a bit. Once we frame this issue properly then it becomes clear that we shouldn’t be sending military resources to Iraq. Rather we should be pulling them out, NOW!
Doug’s point is absolutely correct. Yes, we do sometimes use our power to save civilians from harm, and quotes expressing gratitude like the one Obama included in his speech can make us all feel good and pat ourselves on the back for being such good guys. But there are also ghosts who cannot speak: they are the innocent civilians, going back at least half a century, who have paid the price with their lives so that America can sustain for itself the prized role of world’s judge, jury, hero, and if need be, executioner. We save people sometimes and cherish the memory of that because it feeds our narrative of who we think we are; we conveniently ignore the other side of the story and wave it away as a necessary cost for the greater good, or excuse it as unfortunate “collateral damage.” A greater good, of course, that we reserve the right to entirely define by ourselves, on behalf of the world. This is the answer to the question of why we care about some civilians, and not others.
None of this is to say that dealing with ISIL is a bad thing, if it can truly be a multilateral effort, including the recognition that ultimately, this is still a political problem of the regimes and peoples of the Mideast to solve. But without a doubt, the slow degradation of our democracy and what once was called “the American idea” continues. Obama, once having been a constitutional lawyer, knows as well as anybody that undertaking a mission of this scope short of a Congressional authorization of war is a perversion of Constitutional intent. But, even though ISIL does not rise to the level of “imminent threat” to the US necessary to justify unilateral executive branch action beyond 90 days, there IS always that chance ISIL could carry out a substantial attack. And Lord knows, no President wants to be the person in office when that does happen (and it will, surely, at some point). And so, with midterm elections on the horizon, and Americans sufficiently freaked out by ISIL’s video executions to support action, hey, why not? Especially when you talk big about “destroying” ISIL but rule out ground troops (and here, hawks are correct in their criticism of the disconnect between the stated goal and the means cited). But then again, this is about kicking the can down the road for the next President. Obama has domestic policy goals that he still hopes to implement in his remaining 2 1/2 years in office, and whatever he can do to buy himself time and political maneuvering room for that purpose, he will do.
On the 13th anniversary of 9/11, as we remember those who lost their lives that day, we must also remind ourselves that no terrorist organization, whether Al Qaeda, ISIL, or the next “scariest thing” that will surely follow ISIL, had, has, or will have the capability to do as much lasting harm to our nation as we have proven capable of inflicting upon ourselves. Raise your hand if you think the state of American democracy is going to get healthier in the next 10, 20, 25 years. Anybody???
Define for me this harm we have inflicted on ourselves. I’m not seeing it.
Don’t get me wrong… I’ve seen our republic degraded considerably, as our politics have gotten nastier and less functional. I decry this all the time. I’m just failing to see how that very real phenomenon is related to the subject at hand.
Also… I don’t accept service on your assertion that I care about some civilians and not others. But you seem to hold that belief rather passionately. Else you wouldn’t say something so sweepingly condemnatory.
(Brad doesn’t have a big thumps-up emoticon thingy to fly on the blog)
To make sure I understand, you do what?
I do believe that the state of American democracy will be healthier in 10, 15 or 20 years than it is now.
By the way, the main reason I said that was the best part of the president’s speech was not because of warm and fuzzy feelings about what that particular beneficiary of our actions said.
What I was applauding, mainly, was the president’s acknowledgement that we are, as Madeleine Albright said, the one indispensable nation…
Great comment Phillip. And, I do not agree that the state of American democracy will get healthier in the next 10, 20, 25 years unless there is a major event that will permanently reset the collective mindset of the political ideologues involved in our government today. Unfortunately, the future leaders coming up are in many ways even more radicalized than their older leaders.
Many eschew the comments section after reports, etc. on many blogs and websites. I don’t, I try to read as many as possible because in many ways, they do reflect the general attitude on a particular subject. Yahoo! News, MSN, and the wide variety of liberal and conservative blogs have for the most part come down to one or two line smart ass responses that are generally very derogatory in nature and no actual discussion of the topic and especially no give and take or attempts to reach a mutual agreement on an issue. It is either my way or the highway attitude that is prevalent in the comment section.
Noted again for the record, I am not an Obama fan because I firmly believe he is another perfect example of the Peter Principle when it comes to being POTUS. But, I do actually sympathize with Obama on the ME issue and several others. This is a Gordian’s Knot and trying to separate enemy from enemy from friend/enemy from friend is almost impossible. ISIL controls a very large portion of Syria and Iraq consisting of several million people and most of them don’t want either the Syrian or Iraqi armies around. Isolating key members or leaders of ISIL among the millions will be difficult and even if successful taking out a key leader, another one will simply step up and take his place. They, ISIL, whose numbers are rapidly increasing have access to resources, oil, to finance their caliphate and if anyone actually believes they cannot find buyers for oil, maybe a cranial extraction from the rectal region of the body is in order.
The ME situation along with Russia and Ukraine added to it plus trying to convince the American public to accept or embrace ACA and increasing the minimum wage while small business growth is in a state of recession and a myriad of other issues to deal with would be a daunting task for anyone who is well qualified, not one who has met his “Peter Principle” moment.
As usual, Rand Paul demonstrates the common sense approach:
““It doesn’t in any way represent what our Constitution dictates nor what our founding fathers intended,” Paul, a likely 2016 presidential contender said on Fox News. “So it is unconstitutional what he’s doing.
“He should have come before a joint session of Congress, laid out his plan—as he did tonight—and then called for an up or down vote on whether or not to authorize to go to war,” Paul added. “I think the President would be more powerful [and] the country would have been more united.””
There is much to dislike about Plagiarist Paul but at least he makes a good point here. If I was in the Senate I would of course vote NO.
John Kerry, and others within the administration have assured me that this action against ISIL is not a “war”.
“What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation,” Kerry said. “If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL they can do so, but the fact is it’s a major counter-terrorism operation.”
Right. Not a war. Check.
Conducting a bombing campaign against a large army is obviously a man-made overseas kinetic counter-terrorism operation assisted by gravity. I wish someone had asked our Secretary of State what his definition of “war” is. Oh well, if only we had a group of people who’s job it could be to ask our leaders pointed questions when they try to BS us.
Right now, it feels like the administration is conducting a war on language.
We have always been at *not* war with ISIL, Winston. Don’t you know that?
Until Saudi Arabia and Qatar stop supporting Wahabbists, it’s all just a whole lot of talk.
This is why I remain so ambivalent on the whole thing. There isn’t a major player in the region worth promising unconditional support (and I think this would have to include Israel, too, since they won’t solve their West Bank issue) .
Jordan? Kuwait? Any others?