This editorial appeared in yesterday\’s edition of the Washington Post. I usually excerpt material of this nature and comment on it afterwards. But in this one instance, I am posting the entire piece with no subsequent commentary at all. Because it doesn\’t require any.
With great respect for what it took for an Obama-supporting enterprise like the Post to publish the following editorial, here it is:
PresidentObama needs to focus on how the United States can meet globalchallenges
PRESIDENTOBAMA\’S acknowledgment that “wedon’t have a strategy yet” in Syria understandably attractedthe most attention after his perplexing meeting with reportersThursday. But his restatement of the obvious was not the mostdismaying aspect of his remarks. The president\’s goal, to theextent he had one, seemed to be to tamp down all the assessments ofgathering dangers that his own team had been issuing over theprevious days.
Thisargument with his own administration is alarming on three levels.
Thefirst has to do with simple competence. One can only imagine thewhiplash that foreign leaders must be suffering. They heard U.S.Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power denounce Russiaas “today … they open a new front … Russia\’sforce along the border is the largest it has been … the maskis coming off.” An hour later, Mr. Obamaimplicitly contradicted her: “I consider the actions that we\’veseen in the last week a continuation of what\’s been taking placefor months now … it\’s not really a shift.”
Similarly,his senior advisers uniformly have warned of the unprecedented threatto America and Americans represented by Islamic extremists in Syriaand Iraq. But Mr. Obama didn\’t seem to agree. “Now, ISIL [theIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant] poses an immediate threat tothe people of Iraq and to people throughout the region,” he said.”My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISILmade in Iraq are rolled back.” Contrast that ambition with thisvow from Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “And make nomistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries tospread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the UnitedStates of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”
Thediscrepancies raise the question of whether Mr. Obama controls hisown administration, but that\’s not the most disturbing element. Hisadvisers are only stating the obvious: Russia hasinvaded Ukraine. The Islamic State and the Americans it is trainingarea danger to the United States. When AttorneyGeneral Eric H. Holder Jr. says the threat they pose is “insome ways … more frightening than anything I think I\’veseen as attorney general,” it\’s not because he is a warmonger oran alarmist. He\’s describing the world as he sees it. When Mr.Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonderwhether he will also refuse to respond to it.
Whichis, in the end, the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Obama\’sperformance. Throughout his presidency, he has excelled at explainingwhat the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarksThursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” hesaid. “We don\’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” IfIraq doesn\’t form an acceptable government, it\’s “unrealistic”to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State.
Alliesare vital; the United States overstretched in the Bush years; itcan\’t solve every problem. All true. But it\’s also true that noneof the basic challenges to world order can be met without U.S.leadership: not Russia\’s aggression, not the Islamic State\’sexpansion, not Iran\’s nuclear ambition nor China\’s territorialbullying. Each demands a different policy response, with militaryaction and deterrence only two tools in a basket that includesdiplomatic and economic measures. It\’s time Mr. Obama startedemphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot.