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Ringing a Fire Bell in the Night

This week’s issue of the Weekly Standard is devoted to foreign policy and national security–and specifically to explaining how dangerous the situation in the Middle East is and the fundamental misconceptions and multiplying overseas failures of President Obama.

The contributors include COMMENTARY’s own Max Boot, Frederick W. Kagan, Steve Hayes, Jessica Lewis, Thomas Joscelyn, Thomas Donnelly, and Mary Habeck. Among the points the various authors make are these:

(a) President Obama is presiding over a substantial decline in defense spending that “has led to a readiness crisis that recalls the hollow army days of the 1970s.” (Boot)

(b) We are trying to convince ourselves that al-Qaeda franchises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and West Africa are not really a threat to us. “We may indeed convince ourselves, but that will not change the reality that they are a serious threat…. The tide of war – of this war, of al Qaeda’s war against us – is not receding, it is advancing.” (Kagan)

(c) When President Obama boasted repeatedly in the 2012 presidential campaign that “al Qaeda is on the path to defeat,” he was “defining al Qaeda down. But redefining al Qaeda is quite different from killing it.” (Hayes)

(d) We are seeing the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). “AQI is fighting in Iraq and Syria under its new banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Solutions to Iraq’s current crisis cannot be found uniquely in Iraq. The United States needs to take action to degrade al Qaeda affiliates in Syria while also acting to degrade [Bashar] Assad’s capabilities.” (Lewis)

(e) “Al Qaeda’s policy of aggressive geographic expansion has been largely successful of late… The war in Syria has been a boon for al Qaeda… If anything, Obama now defines al Qaeda more narrowly than ever before, even as al Qaeda’s many branches have become more virulent.” (Joscelyn)

(f) “The entire region – states and nonstate actors, ethnic and sectarian groups, militants of all stripes, and the ordinary people on the street – is engaged in a two-fold contest for power: over who will control the future of the region and who will control the future of Islam. We can pretend that the context does not affect us, but if the enemy wins, he has promised to bring the war home to us again. We may have lost interest in the Middle East, but the Middle East has not lost interest in us.” (Donnelly and Habeck)

I’ve quoted these authors at length because what they say not only seems right to me but urgent as well. The American people are “war weary,” to use a common phrase these days. Our commander in chief is diffident and irresolute. He does not understand the nature of the struggle. Our enemies, on the other hand, do. They are malevolent, determined, on the rise.  They once again view America as “the weak horse.”

These are dangerous days, and it’s important that at least some among us ring a fire bell in the night.


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