The president talks a tough game from his refuge in the shade of Congress, but he isn't likely to fool anyone, particularly the chief barbarians and plotters of theological mayhem. He asks for broad and intentionally vague war powers as the foundation for a three-year campaign that could, but probably won't, to defeat but not destroy the men who have imposed their version of Islam by beheading captives, crucifying children and putting men in cages and burning them alive. Is Allah pleased?
So far all that the president's men and women have accomplished is to supply a new acronym for the Washington chattering class to memorize. His request for "authorization for use of military force," or "AUMF," is pronounced "oomph," and "oomph" is definitely what this latest greatest Obama big idea does not have.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress give the president's request the serious consideration that such a request deserves. The kindest thing any senator has said about the president's scheme is that it's "foolish," "nonsensical" and "utterly stupid."
The Democrats are worried that Mr. Obama, like a child with his first box of matches, might actually do something with such authority. They understand that Mr. Obama doesn't mean his tough talk now any more than he has in the past, but they want him to say so. "This authorization needs to make it crystal-clear that U.S. combat troops cannot be sent back to the Middle East as part of this conflict," says Sen. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I worry that the vague limitations on ground troops in today's draft may turn out to be no limitations at all."
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who usually takes considerable pains to use nice, mild language, can hardly contain his contempt for Mr. Obama's latest bright idea. "The president should be asking for an authorization that would not impose any artificial and any unnecessary limitations such as those based on time, geography and type of force that could interfere with our strategic objectives in defeating the Islamic State," he tells a radio interviewer. "What he's doing is tying his own hands, stupidly tying his own hands. Talk about telegraphing weakness. That's what he's doing."
Everything Mr. Obama has touched in the Middle East since he embarked on his famous apology tour in the first weeks after his inauguration has made bad things worse. He does not understand that the president of the United States, any president, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, cannot project weakness, uncertainty or lack of resolve and expect the evil men of Earth to cut him a break. These evil men hear no seductive notes in the Muslim call to evening prayer that Mr. Obama says so enraptures him, they hear only music to rape and behead by.
They're determined to impose a radical, violent version of Islam on as many people as they can, and they're determined to fight until they do, or are destroyed. Mr. Obama prescribes fighting them, just not too hard, and only for three years. He insists that the United States and its allies have made "significant progress" in defeating but not destroying, as first promised, the unholy cult called the Islamic state.
The president has painted himself in a corner. Nobody is afraid of him, and worse, nobody is afraid of the United States. Once upon a time the mere prospect of the application of American might made tyranny tremble. Who trembles now in the face of this president's resolve?
He attempts a version of what he imagines is Churchillian eloquence. "Make no mistake, this is a difficult mission and it will remain so for some time. It's going to take time to dislodge these terrorists, especially from urban areas. ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose. Our coalition is strong, our cause is just and our mission will succeed. Long after the terrorists we face today are destroyed and forgotten, America will continue to stand free and tall and strong."
Not one American in a hundred has a taste for more war in the Middle East, but the surest way to get into one is to show a faint heart and a light head. We've seen this movie, and it stinks.