On Wednesday night President Obama commandeered prime time to lay out his strategy for dealing with the savage terrorists of ISIS. Mr. Obama appeared to have some passion when he spoke about airstrikes in Syria and the need to "ultimately destroy" the ISIS army. Finally!
But why has the president been so reluctant to call out evil and to label Islamic terrorism for what it is? Just put yourself in his place for a moment. Barack Obama came into office infused with a preternatural confidence, an absolute certainty that the world would bend to his will and personality.
Consider what he told a radio interviewer in 2007: "I truly believe that the day I'm inaugurated, not only does the country look at itself differently but the world looks at America differently. If I'm reaching out to the Muslim world, they understand that I've lived in a Muslim country … I understand their point of view … That will ultimately make us safer."
He was then a 46-year-old who had been in the United States Senate less than two years. But his mere presence, he assured us, was going to calm the ever-turbulent Middle East. Along with that lofty self-regard, President Obama came into office with a great reluctance to use American power. Like many on the left and in the academy, pardon the redundancy, he believed that the USA has often been a destructive force in the world. He preferred that America remain on the sidelines rather than confront difficult situations.
It is a mere seven years since Barack Obama predicted that he would fundamentally transform the Middle East. And now Islamists are slaughtering infidels, Libya and Egypt are in chaos, Iraq is a mess, and Israel faces existential threats. It is not easy for anyone to admit error, and that seems especially difficult for Barack Obama, whose charmed life was largely bereft of criticism until his near-magical ascent to the presidency.
So now what? The time has come for President Obama to take a step back and survey the world. Putin has gobbled up Crimea and may have more conquests on his menu; Syria's Assad has annihilated tens of thousands; Iran's mullahs continue their quest for a nuclear weapon; even China is growing more belligerent.
We are in desperate need of leadership from the Oval Office, and it has to begin with ISIS. We now know that President Obama was aware of the growing threat more than a year ago, but he and his advisors apparently did not think a well-funded terror army was going to be much of a problem. The president himself notoriously dismissed the ISIS killers as a "jayvee team." But what in the world did he think these people were going to do? They are the worst of humanity, and even including them under the umbrella of "humanity" is a stretch.
The long-overdue wakeup call came when the Nazi-like terrorists beheaded two Americans and posted the gruesome killings on the Internet. By murdering those two men, ISIS effectively declared war on the United States and led most Americans to demand action from our leaders.
President Obama's Wednesday night speech was a start, but it is just that – a start. His worldview has been proven wrong time and again, and he's repeatedly been cowed by the world's bullies. Everyone knows how to deal with a bully – you fight back. And you fight back hard!
As Thomas Paine wrote late in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls." Now, like then, America requires leadership that promotes good and confronts evil. The time for passivity is long past, it is time for action and resolve. That is now obvious to everyone, even the most powerful man in the world