I had a bad Labor Day holiday, but my troubles don't matter much. President Obama's was decidedly worse, and unfortunately his matter a lot. The crucial thing, though, is that I know I had a bad couple of days. It is not clear to me that President Obama realizes that he did, and that should trouble all of us.
Part One: Why It's Needed
It is a little more than two years before the next presidential election, but foreign policy might figure more prominently in the 2016 cycle than it has in recent elections. World events are deteriorating -- rapidly -- and national security is more on people's minds. There is widespread popular discontent with the current administration's foreign policies -- even some prominent Democrats are raising significant questions about the direction of U.S. strategy. Republicans have not settled on a consistent foreign-policy vision, but they are searching for one. The time is ripe to start thinking about what an alternative foreign policy should be.
The social media-produced execution of journalist Jim Foley released on Aug. 19 focuses attention on whether President Obama will stay the course in Iraq or take necessary actions to defeat the Islamic State (IS).
President Obama has tried to articulate a clear doctrine of when the United States should use force. He said in his Nobel lecture in 2009 that force was justified against al Qaeda because "negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." He also said, "I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later." Force is justified when either our interests or our ideals, or both, are threatened.
The growing threat from the Islamic State and the Obama administration 's accelerating campaign of airstrikes against it serve reminder of history's continual capacity to surprise. If even one year ago someone had predicted that Iraq would mark the next site of a major American military intervention, such a forecast would have been dismissed as hopelessly far-fetched, even delusional. Yet with the Obama administration now giving persistent indications that this will be a sustained and multi-pronged campaign in Iraq and potentially Syria, the White House needs to take the next step of going to Capitol Hill and requesting Congressional support for this newest phase of the war against militant jihadism.