This is Obama’s last chance

Strikes against ISIL come some “three years too late”: it is too late to reserve the suffering, yet in time to contain the harm that has been done. President Obama must use military power to save the humankind, of which America is a part.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered indefinite airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Iraq last week. The action came at a delay, for which there is no excuse. But the action itself is justified and is a must. In a globalized world, the United States is burdened with the call to save human lives and save the human civilization in distant lands as it would at home. For an American leader inaction is not a choice. This is also Obama’s last chance to redeem his place in history by rectifying mistakes of the past.

To do so, there is no alternative to military force. Or, to use the words of an American lobbyist, “the only way to do it is to do what we did three years too late in Bosnia.” Former U.S. Congressman Joseph DioGuardi was then calling for action against Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. But while President Bill Clinton acted before the Kosovo conflict spilled over to other parts of Southeast Europe, Islamist terrorists have already advanced across national borders in the Middle East. Strikes against ISIL come some “three years too late”: it is too late to reserve the suffering, yet in time to contain the harm that has been done.

Critics of the president’s foreign policy include those who have served in his administration. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton linked ISIL’s rise in the Middle Orient with Obama’s handling of the civil war in Syria. In her view, the president’s failure to support those fighting for democracy permitted Islamist terrorists to establish a ruthless regime over a large transnational territory. ISIL militants have shocked human conscience worldwide with massive slaughtering and live burial of Shiite, Christian, and Yazidi women and children.

President Obama has a record of good deeds. In Latin America, he stood by democratically elected leaders, even when a coup d’état or dictatorship better served the immediate interests of the United States. He supported Egypt’s rough transition to democracy—stood with the Egyptian people in the 2011 Revolution, opposed the majority tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhood, and called out the violent oppression of protestors after the 2013 military takeover. He duly took swift action in Libya in 2011, when a NATO campaign put an end to Gaddafi’s despotism (even though the French were actually the first to fly their military aircraft over Tripoli and Cyrenaica).

U.S. foreign policy, however, has trailed during President Obama’s second term in office. His administration has failed to intervene in Syria against Bashar Assad’s brutal regime. Obama conceded a shameful defeat to Russia’s Vladimir Putin as the two superpowers negotiated a deal that took away Syria’s chemical weapons but provided no end to human suffering. In the meantime, the U.S. president continued to trust the Muscovite dictator on other sensitive matters of global peace and security, all while Russia decided to expand its territory at the expense of American allies and continues to sponsor terrorist and separatist activities in eastern Ukraine.

In Syria, lack of Western support for the democratic and secular opposition paved the way for extremists to expand their influence. There are even credible claims that the Assad regime sponsored Islamist terrorists to fight against the Free Syrian Army, as former Al-Qaeda protégés such as Al Nusra and ISIL (or ISIS) began to seize control of towns then being held by the secular opposition.

As the Ukraine crisis diverted attention away from the Middle East, ISIL subjected ancient cities and modern villages to its medieval feudal rule and captured oil fields for its own profit and further growth. Pathetically declared a “caliphate” and renamed to “the Islamic State,” the terrorist group has claimed the lives of over 30,000 civilians in 2014 alone. The self-styled Miramolinus Caliph Ibrahim reigns over an increasingly large area across Syria and Iraq.

Before President Obama took office in 2009, American forces had finally managed to somehow contain extremism and install democracy in Iraq. Airstrikes have now resumed (after a lengthy absence) to respond to what followed the U.S. withdrawal from the Mesopotamian valleys. As Iran’s Shiite regime gained a foothold in Iraqi politics, those rallying in opposition to Tehran were also against democracy. A divisive leader, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki became increasingly authoritarian, further contributing to ISIL’s rise in the Middle East.

I pray that in 2016 the American people elect a leader who will make a difference. But I acknowledge that President Obama is not a mere “lame duck.” With more than two years left in office, he can change the course of his foreign policy. As the leader of the Free World, the President of the United States has a moral and political obligation to take a proactive role in promoting peace, freedom, and democracy worldwide. In a globalized world, Americans stand to reap the rewards—whether the fruits of vigilance or the bitterness of apathy.

It will be a tough two years for President Obama. Problems are manifold and widespread. But whether in helping Nigeria against Boko Haram, ending the civil war in Centrafrique, fighting the Ibrahimite caliphate in the Middle East, upholding Ukraine’s independence, or helping Israel and the Palestinians achieve permanent peace, the commitment of a strongman is a necessity. Barack Obama is a messenger of hope and peace who has long preached of a better life for humankind. Now he has to act on his words. Airstrikes against ISIL is what he must do.

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