In our opinion: To be vigilant, relentless?

Deseret News editorial

Published: Sat, Aug. 23, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 President Obama needs to make good on his promise to be \

President Obama needs to make good on his promise to be "vigilant … and relentless" in battling ISIL in Iraq.

(Iraqi Revolution via AP video, File, Associated Press)

President Obama struck the right tone this week in his reaction to the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

“We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” he said. “When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done and we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”

It was the sort of tough rhetoric one expects from an American president. In this case, however, it left some giant, unspoken questions hanging in the air. Just exactly what is it this president intends to do? Will Obama, who has acted as if his promise to end the war in Iraq was more important than responding to any looming threats to civilization in that region, now support the type of ground-troop offensive necessary to eradicate Islamic State fighters?

If not, how does he intend to be “vigilant” and “relentless” and to “see that justice is done”?

One encouraging sign was the recent way in which Obama forced the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, by refusing to launch airstrikes against radical Islamic forces until he stepped down. That was decisive action solidly in support of administration policy.

But the resulting airstrikes, although successful in pushing Islamic State forces away from the Mosul Dam and other strategic areas, will not be enough to constitute a relentless pursuit of the enemy.

High-ranking administration officials, not known for hawkish exaggerations, have referred to the ISIL in dire terms. It poses a threat of a “dimension that the world has never seen before,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

That’s a strong statement. It puts ISIL above Hitler or any other megalomaniacal tyrant or organization with visions of global domination in history — and those tended to require unrelenting, all-out military responses.

It’s time for President Obama to address the American people and to make the case for how he intends to back up his rhetoric. This week, he said the United States will “act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”

That is an unfortunate indication that he might consider doing nothing unless he can gather widespread international support. In any case, he needs to begin building that support quickly.

There is evidence ISIL poses threats to much of the world, including other regional forces such as Syria. The president talked of a “common effort” across the Middle East. That may require uneasy alliances with nations the United States normally considers enemies.

The United States might not have found itself in this position if the Obama administration had shown greater leadership against threats in the world, ranging from Russia’s incursions into Ukraine to attacks against U.S. diplomats in Libya.

Forces at war with civilization are quick to take advantage of a perceived lack of resolve in Washington. As columnist Michael Gerson wrote this week, “If America does not lead the global war on terrorism, the war will not be led.”

Unfortunately, that is a responsibility that can’t be shirked.

1. marxist
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 23, 2014

"The president talked of a 'common effort' across the Middle East. That may require uneasy alliances with nations the United States normally considers enemies."

Do you perhaps remember when the United States was allied with Saddam Hussein against Iran?

Do you finally conclude that the invasion of Iraq (which you energetically supported) was a gigantic mistake considering the unraveling which has occurred since Hussein's toppling and execution? I mention this because you point out what you believe are mistakes by Obama in the area. If you are going to criticize Obama for "mistakes" in the past maybe you can point out mistakes you have made.

It is important to look backward so we don't make the same mistakes in the future.

While I very much dislike Islam, I believe that the blank check we give the Jewish state Israel is a major impediment to an effective and humane foreign policy in the region. Would you care to go there?

2. Bob K
Davis, CA,
Aug. 23, 2014

What a horrible mess!

We went in on our white horses and deposed a despot who kept the country together, promising that people with a 5000 year tradition would embrace American values because we are so right about everything.
--- Nevermind that Dick Cheney's Haliburton made $39 billion dollars.
--- Nevermind that we spent $3 trillion, ruined our economy, and convinced the Muslim world that we look down on them, and aim to destroy their sovereignty.
--- Nevermind that over a quarter of a million people died, and so many American lives were tragically affected.

Now, folks are looking to the current President to fix an impossible mess he would have been too cautious to create on his own.

There are no simple answers, but a simple statement is "Be careful messing with other countries, and don't be so arrogant as to think they want to be us"

3. Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Aug. 23, 2014

Even though the Iraq war part 1 was an unmitigated disaster, you want a sequel?

4. GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA,
Aug. 23, 2014

What’s this about “unrelenting, all-out military responses.”

NO, we don’t need an “all-out” military response. That makes no sense at all.

We need a MEASURED response. We need a response that is APPROPRIATE for the situation.

Yes Obama said “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless . . .” He didn’t say we would be a spastic clone of the GW Bush administration, attacking in force completely unnecessarily.

Why does ANYONE quote Michael Gerson? Gerson really misses his old boss, GW, and the proclivity of our government back then to lurch spasmodically in response to stimuli instead of being sensible.

Yes, I know . . . Gerson said “If America does not lead the global war on terrorism, the war will not be led.” But then again, as a great supporter of the Bush administration and all things GW . . . Gerson has a proven record of NOT knowing what he’s talking about.

We don’t have to LEAD the global war on terrorism, but we do have to participate in a reasonable way.

5. Baron Scarpia
Logan, UT,
Aug. 23, 2014

It is ironic that the photo accompanying this article shows oil wells in the background... when you think that the main reason we remain in the Mideast is to feed our oil addiction. The money that pours into the region drives economic disparity among hostile groups AND funds the very terrorists we're trying kill. Sadly, we're paying for both sides on our war on terror -- for our military and for the oil that funds the terrorists.

Yes, conservatives say drill at home for our oil as the solution, but they forget that for a global commodity, any demand for oil drives its price both at home and abroad... thus, our continued oil addiction will keep global oil prices profitable to fund the Mideast's terrorists.

Again, part of the solution is turning to domestic, price stable (and clean) energy that steers energy dollars into rural communities and benefits the homeland with jobs and security. I'm talking wind, solar, and geothermal. Some states get it -- Texas now gets 10 percent of its electricity from wind; Iowa, 27 percent! And their farmers are happy with two income streams and no war zones.