Obama Doesn't 'Have a Strategy' on ISIS? Rightbloggers Do: Scare the Voters
Hey, who's up for another foreign war?
Hard to believe that just last year, on the10th anniversary of America's less-than-excellent adventure in Iraq
, rightbloggers seemed too demoralized for such activities. And when Obama poked the nation's nose intoLibya in 2011
, and threatened to do so inSyria last year
, rightbloggers condemned his aggressiveness.
But times change — we're on the cusp of a new set of midterm elections, and it usually helps Republicans if they can make a Democratic president look like a foreign-policy wimp. Now the brethren are yelling that Obama refuses to attack the supervillains of the moment, ISIS, and that as a result we're all going to be blown up.
Actually, rightbloggers began to regain their vicarious bloodthirst earlier this summer, when ISIS revved up its rampage in Iraq. Sample headline: "George Bush Brought Democracy to Iraq — Barack Obama Brought ISIS." Look what happens, they cried, when you let a bunch of Iraqis tell you to get out of their country! Clearly, those misguided Mesopotamians had no idea what was good for them — just like the African-Americans and women who refused to vote for Romney — and would welcome our guidance this time for sure.
ISIS is now super-hot, having decapitated a U.S. reporter and picked up some territory in Iraq and Syria. Some experts, such as the Pando Daily's Gary Brecher (a/k/a The War Nerd), think that ISIS is like the proverbial one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind — more a ragtag outfit sucked into prominence by a power vacuum than a world-class military unit. Others, like Mark Thompson, notice that to attack ISIS in Syria would "make the U.S. a de facto ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad" and continue the grim farce of America arming a Middle Eastern faction one day and fighting it the next.
But rightbloggers portrayed ISIS as a true global superpower, ready, willing, and able to strike the United States, that must be attacked vigorously now (or whatever Obama isn't doing).
Referring, presumably, to the Crusades and other ancient Cross-'n'-Crescent conflicts, Chuck Norris intoned at WorldNetDaily that "if we don't get leadership in Washington that can deal with such matters, history will repeat itself, except radical Islam could possibly win this time."
National Review's Jonah Goldberg suggested Obama thinks "the world is a TV show," because "one of the things you learn watching television as a kid is that the hero wins" and Obama must think so too because he "invokes the 'right side of history' constantly," and likes that MLK quote about the arc of history. (Goldberg then said that "if I had to bet, I'd guess that [ISIS] will ultimately fail, but it will be because someone actually takes the initiative and destroys — as in kills — those trying to build it," which is not a fantasy of inevitable victory, because Mitt Romney could totally march into Washington and pull it off.)
Goldberg's colleague Victor Davis Hanson also disapproved of the president's notion of a "right side of history" and a "wrong side of history" and that he "parrots Martin Luther King Jr.'s phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice." Hanson thought this showed "a Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination."
What would be less Pollyannish? "Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like ISIS from killing thousands more innocents," said Hanson. Hanson showed no awareness that Obama had in fact been bombing ISIS, as he continues to do, so it's hard to tell what he meant, though in his closing Hanson said, "Obama's naive belief in predetermined history — especially when his facts are often wrong — is a poor substitute for concrete moral action," so maybe Obama is supposed to drop concrete instead of bombs.
The brethren also worked up a foreign policy-immigration twofer on the subject: Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) claimed that tens of thousands of ISIS jihadi "have Western passports," reported The Hill, "and they can bring . . . what they've learned about bomb-making and about assassinations with them here at home."
"If ISIS attacks one or more U.S. cities, as it has threatened to do, what then?" hand-wrung Cal Thomas at Fox News. "We can't bomb ourselves." Not under that wimp Obama, anyway! Also, "how would we counter a nosedive in the stock market or the ensuing chaos and fear?"
Thomas had the whole apocalyptic scenario figured out, and he knew the cause, too: the "false belief that we can somehow 'convert' ideological and religious fundamentalists into pluralistic, tolerant people by exposing them to our way of life." Like that other wimp, George Bush!
"So we let them into our nations," Thomas's ululation continued. "They build mosques, often with funding from Saudi Arabia, which practices and teaches a radical brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, and allow them to set up Islamic schools, at least some of which teach hatred of Jews, Christians and Western values . . ." You get the picture: Them Mooslims is dangerous and should be kept out, and if Obama doesn't do it and something blows up, "vigilantes are the last thing we need, but they could rise up, if government fails to perform its constitutional duty to protect us from enemies, foreign and domestic."
Thomas is a waxwork from Reagan days, so when you see even him doing the HELTER SKELTER, SHE'S COMING DOWN FAST routine, you know hysteria's the order of the day.
Under the headline "ISIS crisis: Will next terror attack on American soil come from a British jihadist?" Fox News's Amanda Bowman began by talking about the "young Englishmen [who] left home to fight in the Spanish Civil War in what turned out to be a dress rehearsal for World War II." Wait — was she comparing the English who went to fight against the fascists with the Brits who were fighting for ISIS? No, said Bowman, leaving Britain was "about all those young volunteers have in common with the British jihadists." So why'd she bring it up? Maybe because old grudges die hard, and it gave her the chance to note that "the briefest look at the war shows that when it came to crimes against humanity, socialists could claim little moral superiority" — look, the fascists were bad, but let's have a little perspective here!
Thereafter Bowman ran the customary talking points — "British jihadists are fast transforming the United Kingdom into 'the Yemen of the West," "clearly ISIS did not get the memo from President Obama about the war in the Mideast being over," etc. — and concluded that while "resolute action," presumably of a military nature, was needed, "in the long run, the only way to defeat a bad idea is with a good idea." Therefore, "the Anglosphere ideas of freedom and religious toleration — the four freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt — need to be proclaimed and defended in all our institutions on both sides of the Atlantic." OK, so this time we can't use torture?
The venerable right-wing shit-stirrers at Judicial Watch claimed that "high-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed" that "Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices." This was disseminated via friendly outfits like the Washington Times, National Review, and Newsmax, ratcheting up the panic among the brethren. "Fox News analyst Monica Crowley was one of the few journalists to draw attention" to the Judicial Watch report, breathlessly reported Twitchy, which also replicated tweets from conservatives such as "but still NO SECURED BORDER" and "Does the MSM even have a clue about this?!"
At the Examiner, Dave Workman noted the "serious talk about what may be an imminent terrorist attack somewhere along the southern border," and took what is so far a unique view: "It's the kind of thing that the gun prohibition lobby financed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who just dumped a cool million into the campaign coffers of an extremist gun control measure in Washington State, would somehow try to blame on the Second Amendment. Gun control seems to attract wealthy elitists who have their own private security." Be ever vigilante!
The president did address the ISIS situation last week in modest terms, telling reporters that "I don't want to put the cart before the horse" and that "we don't have a strategy yet" on ISIS in Syria. Though presidential pronouncements on military operations are notoriously circumspect, rightbloggers, for perhaps the first time in history, took Obama at his word, and attacked him for not having the slightest idea what to do in Syria when all patriots knew that the solution was KABOOM!
"An American president who was serious about marshaling and mobilizing the elements of national power behind a strategy for victory could, we suspect, defeat the Islamic State more quickly and more easily than President Obama thinks," said the great military strategist William Kristol. Despite the failure of the Iraq cause he helped lead, Kristol was insisting last March that "a war-weary public can be awakened and rallied" to further mayhem abroad, and in ISIS he clearly saw a fresh chance. Obama couldn't be "the war president we deserve," added Kristol, but he was sure his fellow hawks in Congress would "lay the groundwork for the arrival of a new president who will lead from the front." Maybe Kristol will advise whoever that person is to wear a giant robe and carry a scythe, so everybody knows up front what they're getting into.
Obama's statement was pounced on by commentators of all kinds, including some not normally associated with saber-rattling. "Obama, too, is in a coma. Waking up would entail actually building an international coalition to deal with the situation in Iraq and Syria . . . Obama also needs to lead on putting together a coherent, effective, and defensible policy for the war on terror — one that he can sell to Republicans, allies, and especially the American people who he has treated as an afterthought in all this," said Doug Feith — just kidding, guys! It was Nick Gillespie of libertarian flagship Reason.
Adding to the shame Obama brought to America, we were told, was Obama's choice of clothing. He delivered his remarks in a tan suit, which provoked the wrath of Representative Peter King and typically incisive commentary from the brethren, e.g., Steve Hayward of Power Line: "I think Obama's fashion-felony tan suit is a signal that he really has packed up his presidency." Perhaps the classiest reaction came from religious blogger Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, who suggested Obama should have been wearing brown slacks, because he was shitting his pants with fear.
Meanwhile, at the upper reaches of the conservative food chain, Senator Ted Cruz proposed to a Dallas crowd — after telling them, "I spent last week in Washington, D.C. It's great to be back in America" — that the U.S. "bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age," compared "the Russian bear" to "the Obama kitty cat," and otherwise flexed his figurative muscles to the delight of rightblogger war hawks. "CRUZ'S 2014 GOP VICTORY PLAN," headlined Breitbart.com. "Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona senator who upended the Republican establishment, and to whom Cruz has often been compared, couldn't have said it better," said Eliana Johnson at National Review.
"Had we followed [my Syria plan], there's a good chance you would not see an ISIS today," Breitbart.com's Dan Riehl quoted Mitt Romney, the current Republican presidential frontrunner. Romney "rounds up by connecting the dots between what many are now coming to conclude is an extremely weak foreign policy on multiple fronts of the Obama administration," gushed Riehl.
John McCain, in his capacity as President of the United States' Sunday Morning Talk Shows, claimed Obama was "'either in denial or overwhelmed' by the threat ISIS poses to the United States," per Breitbart.com.
Meanwhile, the administration continues its airstrikes with what appears to be great success, and even the heretofore sluggish Iraqi forces have stepped up against ISIS, just as everyone would prefer. But so what? Rightbloggers don't care about those foreigners; whatever happens half a world away, they would prefer that you be left with the impression that the president is insufficiently butch, and that if you return Republicans to power they'll lead you back to glory and another multitrillion-dollar war.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.