We’ve been hungering for consensus in America and we’ve got it: 91% of Americans see ISIS as a threat to the vital interests of the United States, according to a new Washington Post poll.
71% of respondents support airstrikes in Iraq – up from 54% three weeks ago and from 45% in June. And 65% say they support the potentially more controversial action of launching airstrikes in Syria, which Obama has not done – yet.
These results come at a time when President Obama’s approval ratings are at all-time lows.
In the same poll, only 43% of Americans said the President is a strong leader, the lowest rating of his presidency. 55% of Americans said that the President has done more to divide the country as opposed to 38% who say that he has done more to unite it. 56% of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling international affairs. And by a margin of 51% to 42%, Americans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing overall.
It follows that the President has a tough road ahead of him even if the growing threat from ISIS weren’t systematically dismantling the Middle East. But unfortunately for President Obama – and everyone else – ISIS is doing just that and the time has come for the President to present his strategy to counteract their growing influence.
Let me be clear, ISIS is not any ordinary terrorist organization. As we have seen from their well-organized and, indeed, brutal propaganda campaign, this is a group that knows how to get their message across and has demonstrated a clear lack of respect for human life.
Now what to do?
President Obama spent today briefing top Congressional leaders about his strategy. And he will let the rest of us in on his plan tomorrow night in a speech at 9pm.
The American public needs clarity from the President on his strategy to combat ISIS. Just five days ago, Obama told reporters during a White House briefing, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.”
What a difference a few days makes.
Tomorrow night, look for the President to be clear on what exactly the mission against ISIS is and will be. What is his goal? And what’s the vital national interest at stake here?
The President has already offered that the mission is to degrade ISIS, but that is still amorphous. If we’re going to embark on what experts are saying could be a three-year campaign, boots on the ground or not – and it seems like not – we need something more specific than merely ‘degrading’ ISIS.
It needs to be eradicated.
Independent Senator Angus King told MSNBC that he believes any mission should not involve combat troops, a point the President has also made, notwithstanding the fact that there are already over 1100 American advisers in Iraq currently.
Further, King emphasized that there must be an inclusive government in Baghdad that can gain the support of the Sunni population. Indeed, the big lesson of the Iraq war is that you need to have the local people making decisions for themselves. Hindsight is 20/20, but it does certainly look like we pulled out of the region before Iraq had a stable, coalition government.
The new Iraq government, although not yet fully formed, is a step in the right direction. But we need to see better representation of Sunnis and Kurs if there is ever going to be peace in the region.
How will President Obama aid in the development of such a coalition?
In a rare show of power in military matters, President Obama told Chuck Todd in an interview that he doesn’t need Congressional approval to expand airstrikes in the region. This isn’t what he wants – Obama believes that Congress should have a role in these decisions, even though he doesn’t technically need a vote to move ahead with an increased campaign.
As I argue in my new book, The Russia-China Axis: The New Cold War and American’s Crisis of Leadership, there are times when we want a president who is thoughtful in putting together a strategy, but we also need a president who is willing to act decisively.
Hopefully, President Obama will be both thoughtful and decisive tomorrow night.