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September 13, 2013

No President Left Behind

After 9/11, we killed Saddam Hussein, Iran’s only regional counterbalance, and we scattered the rats in Afghanistan. More recently, we helped decapitate Libya and Egypt. But like the mythical Hydra, every head we chop off becomes two. Our recent military ventures violate basic principles of war like surprise, certainty of purpose, and ruthlessness of execution. It is no wonder that our actions only strengthen the Islamists.

Many of these jihadists are young men without jobs. Without jobs, they cannot get married and start families. Without a purposeful life, they become frustrated. In fact, they become so frustrated that they strap on bombs. Why not? They already feel dead.

The Reformation led to the separation of Church and State and sparked unprecedented wealth creation in the West. The Islamic world does not create jobs because it does not embrace freedom, property rights, the rule of law, and capitalism. Islam desperately needs to go through its own Reformation. Separation of Mosque and State is already centuries overdue, and destabilizing Muslim countries does not facilitate that process.

The history of war is the study of individual, human passions. World War I started after a simple assassination. How? Because agreements and treaties were in place and nobody wanted to lose face. Nobody wanted to look weak. Nobody wanted to be “disrespected.” Being disrespected is something crackers across the globe and for all times have always used to justify violence.

President Obama drew a red line in the shifting sands of the Middle East, thus ensnaring himself with his own tongue. Now people say he will lose credibility if we do not strike Syria: “We cannot have our President disrespected; that would be an invitation for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.” Unfortunately, no matter what we do, Iran will likely get the bomb. Human beings seek and hold that which protects them. Just ask the North Koreans.

Yes, the President fell into a pit of his own digging. Instead of baiting him, perhaps we should pull him out, pat him on the back, and tell him not to worry about it. We all make mistakes. To get respect, he does not need to show the world how big his missiles are. The world knows our strength, and it also knows that we will eventually have a new President, one who will likely quit talking loudly and carrying a twig.

Another war may now turn on the collective wisdom of five hundred and thirty five local yokels, some of whom probably could not find Syria on a blank map. Without all the facts, Senator John McCain has already made up his mind. Like a dog that returns to its vomit, he always makes the case for war. The Senator insists there will never be boots on the ground in Syria, but, according to the philosopher Mike Tyson, all plans go out the window with the first punch.

If he believes in this war, President Obama must explain why the deaths of one thousand people in two days trump one hundred thousand deaths in two years. He must explain why we should intervene in a civil war in which both sides are violating accepted conventions of war. He must explain why we should help al Qaeda. He must explain why we should do the wet work for Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries with the planes and the bombs necessary to clean up their own neighborhood. He must explain how deposing another Middle East Baath Party dictator with WMD will work out better this time. He must prove that Assad ordered the chemical strike.

Legislators tend to avoid tough decisions, which is why they are not executives. Those who vote “present” may have an even greater tendency to “lead from behind.” Some people have been accused of bigotry for challenging the policies of President Obama, a former legislator with no prior executive experience. By constantly giving him a pass on his bad decisions, his cheerleaders are actually the ones guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations. If Congress passes a resolution forcing President Obama to take his warrior studies more seriously, they should title it “No President Left Behind.”

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