Tonight, President Barack Obama is going to tell us what he thinks we should do about the problem in Iraq and in Syria. He is going to ask Congress to put on a show of solidarity. Congress sounds like it is ready to go along with the President. This harkens back to the feeling in Washington after 9/11. Everyone put on a brave and determined face, united in purpose against a looming threat.
Today I spoke with a person who was born in Iraq, and I asked him how he felt about the situation over there. He lives here now, with his family, but he was quick to insist that the President was late, that we should have gone in long before now. Republicans on the hill have been saying that for quite some time. This man told me that ISIS was just a bunch of criminals, and that they were not in Iraq to do anything but plunder. “These people are murderers,” he said, “Barack Obama should destroy them.” I delicately asked him whether he was Sunni or Shia. “I am Shia,” he said.
A few months ago, I spoke with a former Syrian and asked him about the civil war in his country. Was he for the freedom fighters, or was he for keeping Bashar al Assad in power? Mind you this was at the height of the assault by the opponents of Assad, and it looked like they were about to depose him. “I have members of my family in Syria,” he said, “and they say that they understand that Assad may be a bad leader at times. But they know Assad. They don’t know what the freedom fighters will do to Syria.”
Polls say Americans seem ready to wade into this conflict. The constant bombardment of media fear, uncertainty, and dread, would make anyone feel like ISIS terrorists are just over the horizon. They are not. In fact, a few drones and some advisors have reversed the gains that ISIS has made into Iraq. Is a measured response called for at this time? That is a tough call.
Defeating ISIS could be the easy part. The hard part will be making Iraq whole again. It’s the one thing the Bush Administration never planned on, and it is still there waiting for someone to solve it. We don’t have a plan now. No matter what the President says. Iraq is a mess that he promised he would put behind us. That is not going to happen.
Everyone says we should do this thing. That is often the first warning sign that we are about to make a mistake. When the people, Congress, the press, and the pundits all proclaim that a thing must be done, circle the wagons. Here we go again.
Barack Obama is a careful, thoughtful man. He is not stupid, and he is not weak. He is as good as any man who ever sought to bring peace to this region of the world, and over the last century there have been many smart, daring men who have tried. I wish him luck, but history is against him.