I subscribe to the ecclesiastical wisdom that “there is nothing new under the sun”, which is a different way of saying that whenever someone says that all of a sudden something is totally different than it has ever been before, it probably isn’t. It would have been hard to sit back over the last ten years and deny that the American electorate, largely for understandable reasons, was “war-fatigued”. And so it should be – war is a fatiguing thing, particularly with all the baggage and controversy associated with the two that were being prosecuted over the last ten years. Political calculus understandably has leaned towards the notion that “he (or she) who runs most in the lane of foreign policy dovishness has the best chance to win”. On its face, reasonable and logical.
Something strange has happened going into the 2016 Presidential season, and that is the time-tested wisdom of not believing that “this time it’s different”. Indeed, Americans have ALWAYS been repelled by war right after fighting one, and they have ALWAYS dialed up their hawkishness when forced to. In a perfect world, would this sort of cyclicality to mood and sentiment level out and not fluctuate as it does? I have no answer to that question, because in a perfect world there wouldn’t even be the need for vigilant national defense. But alas, there is, and I would argue that we are going to see the real American DNA on these very challenging issues resurface in a big way entering 2016.
There has not been a time since 9/11 that I have doubted America’s commitment towards a strong national defense IF another attack were to take place on America’s homeland. Thankfully, and the Patriot Act is probably the single biggest reason for this, no such attack has happened in the 13.5 years since 9/11. I pray for a continuation of such protection, but I am not optimistic. The enemy is committed, and the opportunities simply vast. However, I am both detecting and forecasting a changing of the guard in the political winds right now – a trend that will agitate the Blame America First crowd, the radical isolationist crowd, and the “if we just leave them alone I have to think they will leave us alone” crowd. Those three different crowds have a lot of overlap at points, and there is certainly a spectrum of both moral clarity and intellectual capability amongst the respective groups, but at the end of the day, I think the “peak” for this group’s popular appeal has come and gone. A more enlightened (but not new) perspective is resurfacing just in time for the 2016 election.
Part of this post is mere political handicapping, but part of it is also intense prescription. A poorly prosecuted Iraq war is not the foreign policy zenith, and neither is thoughtless intervention. On that, nearly all Americans agree. But the worldview that denies we are under attack by a radical group of Islamofascist madmen (not a small group, but a massive one) is the worldview that has no traction whatsoever in the lexicon of reasonable grown-ups. The present administration’s efforts to parse words have repulsed the American people who have eyes, have ears, and frankly, don’t buy what they have been sold. From the recent shootings in France to the frequent flow of ISIS beheadings, the idea that Al Qaida has been neutralized, or that the enemy is on equal moral ground to the Americans, has been debunked (and more so, serves as a source of ire to most reasonable people). The political legs to Bush administration inadequacies and exhaustion with foreign “interventions” has run its course. What we face now is rather vanilla.
And it is now that I put aside the politics and polling and mood discussion, and just focus on the vanilla reality we face. American people ought not have any tolerance for refusing to name and claim the enemy we face. They ought not live in denial about the vigilance necessary to exterminate this threat. And they ought not deny the sustainability and longevity of the ISIS threat (and other bacterial spawns of ISIS) if it is not exterminated. The capability necessary to launch a significant attack on American soil is not a hard one to come by., We have been protected by a handful of factors so far which are by no means surefire or foolproof. The great and legitimate task of federal government is to protect citizens from psychopathic movements like ISIS etc. There should be no fluctuation in this objective.
And this brings me to 2016. A hawkish and childish foreign policy looking to get in a gun fight with anyone who looks at us funny is not going to resonate with the American people, but the utter incompetence of a Secretary of State who proclaimed Putin in a reset mode, Assad of Syria a good guy, and fumbled so badly in Libya, Iraq, and Iran is not the 3am phone call TV commercial stuff you dream about. The Ron Paul wing of the right will have to keep their foreign policy wingnutness hidden, as it is now a liability, not an asset. The need is for a sensible, mature, proficient candidate to speak to the threat we face with moral clarity, and understand the 21st century realities of how the threat is growing (which is to say, understands the homegrown domestic threat of radicalization taking place with select American-born sociopaths). There will always be a Michael Moore extreme on the left and a Ron Paul extreme on the right (if that is where you want to locate it), but the vast majority of Americans will enter 2016 fully aware that the Obama administration is delusional or deceptive if they claim the war is over. We are in a war that we did not start. The winning candidate in 2016 needs to be someone prepared to take the necessary steps to end it.