In a bid to reassert U.S. leadership globally, President Barack Obama has succeeded in enlisting Arab Sunni states to bomb Sunni terrorists while launching a much-needed modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal.
These endeavors are remarkable in themselves but especially so coming from a president who rose to the White House promising to withdraw from Mideast conflicts and to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The realities of international threats intruded on those lofty goals.
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a terrorist army noted for bloody brutality and battlefield success, and of ever more dangerous al-Qaida cells like Khorasan with active plans to attack the West, combined with Russia’s naked aggression in Ukraine gave Obama no choice.
The U.S.-led air strikes, including warplanes from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain, with support for Qatari jets, against ISIS targets in Syria, spoke to the nightmarish threat of metastasizing terrorism as much as Obama’s considerable achievement of getting Arab states to join his coalition.
What’s more, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, a president who has gone out of his way to be sensitive to the sensibilities of the Muslim world declared, “Today, it is violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery.”
While his call for negotiations, goodwill and education to resolve the Sunni-Shia divide and rid the Muslim world of extremism seemed to many like sunny rhetoric, Obama did sound a credible rallying cry against terrorism. And he exposed the hypocrisy of Islamic nations that permit funding of terrorists and schooling that demonizes Jews, Christians and other minorities.
His expression of hope for the possibility of future cooperation with Russia sounded less persuasive. Better was his recent decision to upgrade the U.S. nuclear stockpile.