U.S. Fear/War Mongers Win This Round

by James M. Wall(Saul Loeb-Pool:Getty Images)

The American public doesn’t want to go to war unless there is something out there that frightens them.

This explains why all of our wars have been preceded by dire warnings of what will happen if we don’t militarily engage the enemy.

In President Obama’s Wednesday night speech, he repudiated his own caution and prudence by falling in line with those who think there is no fear out there that war cannot overcome.

The New York Times editorial board sonorously endorsed the President’s decision under a headline that informs the nation that the drums of war have had their effect: “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria.”

Gail Collins’ Times column the same day, “A Man With a Plan”, questions the wisdom of her editorial bosses, pointing to samples of the strategy congressional fear/war mongers employed to influence the President’s decision:

Collins cites a Texas senator:

“President Obama’s chronic passivity has helped the jihadists,” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said in a floor speech this week. Cornyn slammed the administration’s “don’t do stupid stuff” mantra, claiming Obama “doesn’t seem to fully grasp the magnitude of the threats and challenges that America is now dealing with.”

Collins reminds her readers of just why the President’s earliest caution and prudence made better sense than his decision to yield to the likes of John Cornyn. She further comments on Senator Cornyn’s call to action:

Cornyn mixed up Iranians and Iraqis a few times, but concerned citizens understand that these things get complicated. More to the point, not doing something stupid is actually a super foreign policy goal. Just look back on our recent history of meddling in the Middle East and what do you see? A heck of a lot of stupid stuff we wish we hadn’t done.”

Norman Solomon‘s Global Research column sums up Obama’s speech by pointing to what he calls “a liberal style of murmuring reservations while deferring to the essence of U.S. policies for perpetual war:” He concludes with this reminder that the Times is leading the national media pack with its support for Obama’s decision:

“Like the vast bulk of the rest of U.S. mass media, when push comes to militaristic shove, the New York Times refuses to make a break from the madness of perpetual war. In fact, with rare exceptions, the dominant media outlets end up fueling that madness.”

Charles Blow’s Times column,”The Cost of War”, reported on public opinion prior to the speech:

“According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published Tuesday [September 9], a vast majority of Americans see ISIS as a threat to the United States, a slight majority believes the president hasn’t moved aggressively enough, and most support expanding United States airstrikes into Syria.”

Blow is not swayed by public support for airstrikes in Syria. In his column, he writes:

“I implore the president and the nation to proceed with caution.
We can kill anti-American fighters and even their leaders, but we can’t kill anti-American sentiment. To some degree, every time we commit our forces in the Middle East we run the risk of further inflaming that sentiment.”

In an earlier Times August 31 column, Blow anticipated the triumph of the fear/war mongers over Obama’s cautious approach, when he warned

“another part of the equation is the tremendous political pressure coming from the screeching of war hawks and an anxious and frightened public, weighted most heavily among Republicans and exacerbated by the right-wing media machine.”

In the days leading up to Obama’s speech, Blow reported:

​”​Republicans are beginning to pull out the big gun — 9/11 — to further scare the public into supporting more action. Senator Lindsey Graham has said on Fox News that we must act to “stop another 9/11,” possibly a larger one, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has warned, “Sadly, we’re getting back to a pre-9/11 mentality, and that’s very dangerous.”

Fear is in the air. The president is trying to take a deliberative approach, but he may be drowned out by the drums of war and the chants for blood.

​After Obama’s speech, c​hants for blood, ​not unsurprisingly, came from Israel​ and its friends in the U.S.​

According to the Global Jewish News Service, Israelis love it when the U.S. comes into Israel’s neighborhood to wage war against any Arab force that Israel does not consider a  friend.

The News Service writes:

“President Obama did not mention Israel or the Palestinians during his national address Wednesday night. But his pledge to lead a U.S.-coordinated effort to destroy ISIS could end up doing more to get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back on track than anything that Secretary of State Kerry and his team managed to produce with their shuttle diplomacy.

Reaching a final deal is hard enough when the region is calm. But it becomes significantly more difficult, if not impossible, when Islamic extremism is on the march and U.S. influence is in retreat.

Good luck convincing Israeli leaders that it is safe to abandon any part of the Golan Heights or the Jordan Valley as ISIS destabilizes the region and moves closer to its borders, especially with a president perceived as being more interested in golf and Asia than confronting the gathering storms in the Middle East.

History suggests that the most effective thing America can do to encourage Israeli risk-taking is to show that we’re serious about reducing regional threats to the Jewish state.”

President Obama was elected in 2008, in part because he rejected that interventionist policy. That was not the message the nation heard in President Obama’s Wednesday speech.

There is no question but that the armies of the so-called “Islamic State”, are guilty of horrendous war crimes. But ISIS is neither Islamic nor is it a state. It is a “terror” group that has no ideological goal other than to bring power to itself and grief to the world.

What we face today in Syria and Iraq requires counter terrorism, not war.

Norman Solomon points to the wisdom of an earlier New York Times Board editorial which was published more than a year ago:

Under the headline “The End of the Perpetual War,” published May 23, 2013, the Times was vehement, calling a Obama speech delivered that week, “the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.”

That May 23, 2013 editorial added:

“For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.”

The Times editorial board was sweeping in its 2013 conclusion:

“Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.”

The fear/war mongers got to the New York Times editorial board between May 23, 2013 and September 10, 2014. The Times and President Obama both gave in to the wrong people.

What remains to be seen is how long and how many deaths, will it take for them to acknowledge their joint mistake.

The picture, above, of President Obama delivering his September 10, 2014 speech was a Saul Loeb pool photo from Getty images.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Middle East, Middle East Politics, Obama, Politics and Elections, US govermemt, War. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to U.S. Fear/War Mongers Win This Round

  1. Fr. Robert says:

    Within this decision is the blatant failure to acknowledge that Anglo-American “stupid stuff we wish we hadn’t done” brought al-Qaeda and into the region and created ISIS. Supporting the barely identifiable moderate rebels in Syria was in fact arming a nascent ISIS. Now with NATO member Turkey and our buddies in the Gulf supporting ISIS, and this axis of stupidity supporting them, the US is merely fighting itself in the region. Same ol’ same ol’: the winner is Israel, the loser the US and the Arab peoples.

  2. Fred says:

    The warmongers and zionists always get their way in our government. Our bombing and efforts to dominate has wrecked the middle east. We never learn. We will kill more civilians with our bombing and make more enemies.
    We need to work with Russia and the UN to find political solutions.

  3. i do not understand our USA policy in the Middle East, i have a lot of question with NO answers?
    1. when Iraq had a dictator like Saddam Hussain, NO Al Qaida person was able to go to Iraq.
    but when the USA take over Iraq the people of Al Qaida can go any place they want in Iraq?
    2. when Iraq was under Saddam Hussain, people & families can go to eat out and come back home @ 2 am in the morning with NO fear,
    but when the USA liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussain & give people freedom & Liberty?
    people are afraid & not able to leave home @ night & each day we have more than 100 people dead?
    3. during the days of Saddam Hussain Iraq had at least 1.5 million Iraqi Christians
    But when the USA liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussain & we are in power to control Iraq, the Iraqi Christians begin to leave Iraq, so today we have less than 400000 Iraqi Christians that means 1.1 million Iraqi Christians became refugees under & after the USA occupation?
    3. when the USA does not like Bashar Al Assad of Syria, the USA with Saudi Arabia & Turkey help to train & send thousands of people to fight in Syria to change the rule of Bashar Al Assad in 6 months & now after 3 years & 150000 dead nothing happen?
    the people we trained & help to support began to kill the local Syrian people & take over their villages & destroy more than 80 places of worship both Muslims & Christians .
    4. i am ashamed of our partnership with Saudi Arabia , a country that will not allow their women to drive,BUT in Syria the women are the Doctors, Lawyers, teachers, writers, poets, on TV all the times giving us the news, they are in every field of work.
    5. I am afraid of our policy in Palestine, why? our support of the 47 Israeli military occupation of Palestine over the lives of 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem & Gaza
    is killing the soul of Israel & killing the Palestinian people future for Freedom & Independence ?
    our support of Israel last month to help them in the war in Gaza did the following:
    Kill 3100 people of Gaza – 500 of them children
    10000 Palestinian injured
    15000 homes destroyed
    40000 homes with some destruction
    help them to destroy hospitals, schools, home for the Handy Cap & home for the Elderly
    400000 people became refugees.
    i hope & pray that the Israeli people & the American Jewish community will change the path that Israeli leaders continue to take against the Palestinian people? unless the USA help Israel to see that the Occupation must END the Israeli leaders are going to continue on their self destruction mode?

  4. Jim,
    Excellent article.

  5. Patrick says:

    ISLAMIC STATE barbarism is fueled by that of the Jewish state of Israel when it pours gasoline down the throat of an innocent Palestinian boy or targets hospitals and schools and little boys playing soccer. Ninety percent of the citizens of Israel supported that vicious, cowardly “war” against the prisoners of Gaza. Israel is ensuring generations of determined enemies.

  6. Lynn Naibert says:

    Right on, Jim. Must post on Facebook.

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