Sunday, December 06, 2015

Leading From Within

"The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power."

“Let’s make sure we never forget what make us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”

President Obama
Address to the Nation
(The White House transcript isn't working at the moment--here it is at Buzzfeed.)

Can we repel a threat without becoming a mirror image of our enemy?  It isn't done very often.  But President Obama is determined that it will be, this time.

President Obama's strategy to "destroy ISIL" is not a political position--it is an operational strategy that has the support of those who carry it out--both U.S. agencies and crucial international partners:

This is our strategy to destroy ISIL. It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition. And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done.

As the sitting President since 2009, Obama's success consists largely of what hasn't happened--all the plots and plans that were stopped, that Americans know nothing about.  They know only what terrorists were able to do.  Even the announced disruptions and terrorist leaders killed disappear from memory when any kind of attack is somewhat successful.

President Obama also called out Congress, urging them to deny guns to individuals on the terrorist no-fly list, to end access to assault weapons (which the New York Times again called for in a front page editorial) and to authorize use of force against ISIL--which many will be surprised that Congress has failed to do.  That's because Congressional Republicans are more interested in partisan politics than actual national security.  They complain that Obama isn't doing enough, and they oppose anything he proposes to do.  In part because of the factors outlined in the previous paragraph, they sometimes get away with it.

He refused the usual political expediency of invasion--the political response to fear, and to the opportunism of those who profit by the blood of others.

President Obama spent a fair amount of time in the address countering the danger of xenophobia and prejudice against Muslims that the GOPer leaders are trying to foment.  Fortunately, the first poll after San Bernadino showed no immediate jump in prejudice against Muslim Americans.  And the shout by a witness to the perpetrator of the more recent terrorist knife attack in London has become an international rallying cry : You ain't no Muslim bruv!

But ISIL isn't the only terrorist threat, as President Obama recognized.  There are the many Americans slaughtered by gunfire, by a lone gunman with semi-automatic weapons whose motives are personal, if they can be called motives.  And there are domestic terrorists with assault weapons and other weapons.  As the New York Times noted:

Indeed, the death toll from jihadist terrorism in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — 45 people — is about the same as the 48 killed in terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing extremist ideologies, according to New America, a research organization in Washington.

No spies or law enforcement agencies can prevent the kind of attack that happened in San Bernadino, if these weapons of mass destruction are easily available, and tracking large purchases or investigating them is difficult if not impossible because that's the way the NRA and its lackeys want it to be.

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