Will Obama pass the buck on defeating ISIS? [Commentary]

Maryland's former governor picks apart the president's policies both at home and abroad

September 28, 2014|Robert L. Ehrlich Jr

Bullet point opinions on the topical issues of the day, for your consideration:

•Regarding America's present war footing, our military brass are saying what common sense would dictate: It's gonna be really difficult to defeat (rather than contain) ISIS without professional soldiers ultimately doing the dirty work on the ground. Which also raises the question of what if our "rent-a-moderate-Syrian-freedom fighter" strategy fails? In other words, will an anti-war president (re)consider the use of U.S. boots on the ground if that is what it will take to defeat ISIS? My bet is no; Mr. Obama does not want another ground war in Iraq as part of his legacy. Such a call will be left to his successor.

•Our experiences in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have moved America away from not only Bush era interventionism, but also JFK's "pay any price" (for freedom) doctrine. In fact, it was the precise antithesis of President Kennedy's doctrine that secured the White House for an anti-war freshman senator from Illinois. Prior to the air campaign against ISIS, Mr. Obama had either accomplished his goal (Iraq) or placed consequential limitations on U.S. military activities (Libya, Afghanistan, Syria). Yet, there has to be a rational American military posture that assists fledgling democracies in substantive ways short of placing regular American troops on the ground. Such is the requirement in Ukraine where President Petro Poroshenko last week begged the U.S. for military assets in the face of naked Russian aggression. Unfortunately, the U.S. president's tepid response (minimal security and economic assistance) again reminds Vladimir Putin that this administration is unserious about helping a friend in need. The Clinton/Obama "reset" with Russia is in full scale retreat. An important ally in need of help deserves far better treatment than this.

•The recent devastating report about the significant retrenchment of African-American economic health over the past six years should be a larger story. Recall that the election of our first black president was met with outsized expectations of economic progress within minority communities. Alas, bad economic policy is an equal opportunity offender. Obamacare, progressive tax increases and a negligently pieced together $1 trillion-plus economic stimulus not only failed to ignite the economy, the specter of income inequality (the announced centerpiece of Mr. Obama's second term), has actually gotten worse under his watch. A possible legacy saving move over the next two years would be to engage Congress in comprehensive tax reform of the pro-growth variety. I understand such an initiative would cause great consternation within the president's base, but both parties could play in that sandbox. The economy (particularly job growth) would benefit, too.

•In both of my published books, I criticize the success of the so-called "multi-cultural" movement — including Austrian and British experiences with Muslim separatists in their respective countries. Today, my (and many others') most dire predictions have proven true. Seems that these dissident-friendly, pluralistic, western democracies have now learned what America should never forget: New immigrants enrich the dominant culture if they assimilate into same. It is the affirmative duty of the immigrant to learn the welcoming country's cultural values. Those who propagate resistance to this obligation (and thereby oppose the mixing of diverse cultures) are part of the problem. In the case of homegrown Islam militants — a very large problem indeed. This should not be a controversial concept for an America that used to celebrate its "melting pot." The mixing of diverse cultures within the dominant culture makes us stronger, while resistance generates dissension — or worse. It's beyond time to call out the P.C. police on this one!

•A newly elected Barack Obama once advertised himself as the anti-politician, the leader who would transcend politics and lead on behalf of a divided nation. Yet, this two-term presidency has been marred by non-existent relations with congressional Republicans and only marginally better relationships with his fellow Democrats. Now we learn of another planned end-run around Congress — this time a unilateral rewrite of immigration law — but only after the November elections. The proposed regulation will reportedly limit deportations for millions of illegal immigrants. Such a move would end up in the courts and kill any chance for a bipartisan immigration deal. The former law professor has clearly forgotten constitutional niceties such as separation of powers. Wow.

•Even my free market conscience is struck by the exuberant annual salary ($40 million) paid to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. That's a lot of moolah for a man facing intense criticism from the paying customers. Herewith, a modest proposal to get the commish back in the fans' good graces: give back $35 million (yearly) to the clubs for the purpose of mitigating the forced purchase of exhibition games (at regular season prices) as part of season ticket packages. The actual benefit would be pennies on the dollar, but the fans would go wild!

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.


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