The president’s request for the authorization to use military force against the Islamic State has landed in a Congress as divided as the country. That division was mirrored in the disparate receptions Obama’s resolution received from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
To the Times, Obama’s AUMF is “alarmingly broad. It does not limit the battlefield to Syria and Iraq.” Moreover, Obama “seeks permission to attack ‘associated persons or forces.'” This would give the White House “virtually unrestricted power to engage in attacks around the globe as long as it can justify a connection, however tenuous, to the Islamic State.”
To the Journal, Obama’s resolution ties America down the way the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver. It authorizes war on ISIS for only three years. It would prevent another U.S. army from being sent to Iraq or Syria. “Rather than put shackles on his generals,” says the Journal, “Mr. Obama should be urging them to mount a campaign to roll back ISIS as rapidly as possible from the territory it holds.”
But the country seems nowhere near this hawkish. Viewing nightly on cable news the hardships endured by the Wounded Warriors of our two latest and longest wars has cooled the arbor for new crusades.
About the character of the Islamic State, there is no disagreement. “A brutal, vicious death cult,” Obama called it. But about whether ISIS is an “existential threat” to us, or if this war is really our war, there is no agreement.
North of Syria, along 500 miles of border, sits a Turkish army of half a million with 3,000 tanks that could cross over and annihilate ISIS in a month. Former Secretary of State James Baker suggests that the U.S. offer air, logistics, and intelligence support, if the Turks will go in and snuff out ISIS.
But not only have the Turks not done so, for a time they looked the other way as jihadists crossed their border to join ISIS. If the Islamic State, as Ankara’s inaction testifies, is not viewed as a threat to Turkey’s vital interests, how can it be a threat to ours? There are reports that the Saudis and the Gulf Arabs would be more willing to participate in a war on ISIS if we would first effect the ouster of Bashar Assad.
Everyone in the Middle East, it appears, wants the United States to fight their wars for them. But as they look out for their interests first, it is time we started looking out for ours first.
Foremost among those interests would be to avoid another $1 trillion war, with thousands of U.S. dead and tens of thousands of wounded, and a situation, after a decade of fighting, as exists today in Afghanistan and Iraq, where those we leave behind in power cannot hold their own against the enemies we defeated for them.
That an Iraqi army we equipped and trained at a cost of tens of billions would disintegrate and desert Iraq’s second city, Mosul, when confronted by a few thousand fanatics, was a debacle. Why should Americans have to recapture Mosul for Baghdad? And why do these “democrats” we install in power seem to perform so poorly?
Under Saddam, Iraq fought an eight-year war against a nation three times as large and populous, Iran. Yet, Saddam’s army did not run away as the Iraqi army we trained and equipped ran away from Anbar. What did Saddam Hussein have to motivate men that we do not? What is it that makes some people in the Middle East volunteer and fight to the death, while others refuse to fight or run away from battle?
For, as the Journal writes, “The Associated Press reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials now say foreign fighters are joining Islamic State ‘in unprecedented numbers,’ including 3,400 from western nations out of 20,000 from around the world.”
Why is this?
The Islamic State has plugged into the most powerful currents of the Middle East. It is anti-American, anti-Zionist, anti-West, Islamic and militantly Islamist. It promises to overthrow the old order of Sykes-Picot, to tear up the artificial borders the West imposed on the Arabs, and to produce a new unity, a new dispensation where the Quran is law and Allah rules and all Sunnis are united in one home whence all infidels—Jews, Shia, Christians—have been driven out. Hateful as it is, ISIS has a vision.
Hezbollah, Iran, Assad, the Houthi rebels, all Shiites, understand this. They know they are in a fight to the death. And they fight.
But it is the Sunni Arabs, the royals on the Arabian Peninsula and the sheiks on the Gulf, to whom this should be a fire bell in the night. For ISIS is out to dethrone these perceived royal puppets of a detested America and to reclaim rightful custody of Mecca and Medina.
The Shiites are already in the field. The Sunni are going to have to fight and win this war against ISIS, or lose it all.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. Copyright 2015 Creators.com.