Dealing with mad dogs requires a rabid response
So what do you do when a pack of mad dogs invades your town — or your world?
The short answer is easy: You kill 'em, with no apologies to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But it's not easy for the civilized to deal with rabid men among us.
Barack Obama is counting on rhetoric to wipe out rabies. Mr. Cool even showed unexpected passion after jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq beheaded an American news photographer. He declaimed the obvious, but he said it well (as he usually does).
The killers, he said, "have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims — both Shia and Sunni — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reasons than a different religion."
The president is a quick study, but a slow learner. Everything we know about the mad dogs now was true a year ago when Mr. Obama was drawing his red lines, like a first-grader with a new coloring book, across his map of the Middle East. But he didn't do anything about it when it would have been far easier than it is now to do something about it.
Mr. Obama still appears to be ignorant of who the enemy really is, thinking he can contain these mysterious folk who express their devotion to the religion of peace with a beheading knife. These are not the peaceful who obeyed the call to evening prayer in the Indonesia of his boyhood, responding to what he recalls as "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset." These are the mad dogs who have distorted the faith, even as Muslims generally retreat from saying so.
The president obviously cannot come to terms with the fact that everyone else, including some of his most loyal party partisans, understands — that his weakness in the face of challenge invites the barbarism that is not so slowly enveloping the Islamic world.
He knows the music, but he won't sing the words. "One thing we can all agree on is that a group like [the Islamic State] has no place in the 21st century." Words are cheap. The mad dogs are already at the village gate, so what could that mean? "People like [the Islamic State] ultimately fail," Mr. Obama said. "They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy, and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him." True, but only words, pretty enough for declamation class, but from a president who insists he must lead from behind, expensive at the price.
Mr. Obama obviously thinks the rabid dogs will slink away, taking their deadly venom with them, frightened by the sound of his voice. Mr. Obama raised this voice of friendship in the first months of his presidency, going to the Middle East to do it, and the evildoers, of whom there were plenty, heard not peace and friendship but weakness, vacillation and irresolution. They have heard it often since.
Even now, as the mad dogs advance on village after village in the Iraq he expended so much blood to save, he promises to act only "standing alongside others." He is determined that America cannot act alone, but with the timid, as in the pinprick "offensive" now being waged "alongside others." Taking out a pickup truck, a motorbike or a water wagon is a test neither of a trillion-dollar military nor of a president's resolve.
A president does not assemble a coalition of the willing by waiting for someone else to do it. Like it or not, Barack Obama is the president of Abraham Lincoln's "exceptional nation," and that means others count on America to be exceptional.
President George H.W. Bush — George the Elder — painstakingly assembled such a coalition in the winter of 1991 to throw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. It was not easy to recruit reluctant allies, but he accomplished the remarkable feat because when he said of Saddam's greed that "this will not stand," everyone knew he meant it. American arms shocked the evildoers, winning the war in six weeks, and Mr. Bush's steely resolve awed everybody else.
Mr. Obama's administration boasted of an early and unsuccessful attempt to rescue Jim Foley as "another signal" that he won't tolerate such abductions. We don't need more rescue operations. What we need is the assurance that nobody messes with America and gets away with it.