Folks, I am going to tell y’all a secret, something that will shock and amaze you. It’ll rock your world and possibly cause you to question everything you thought you knew. In fact, if you’re not sitting down while reading this, maybe you should.
Sometimes I actually agree with Robert M. Levy.
I know, I know, it surprises me too when I look across the page at my staunchly Republican fellow Pilot columnist, read the piece next to mine, and go, “Hmmm, he may have something there.”
Oh, it doesn’t happen all the time — in fact, probably not most of the time. But I agree, for example, that we shouldn’t be undercutting the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, even as we disagree on how bad it is. Bob seems to think it’s terrible; I find it merely mediocre. But we both agree that the alternative of no deal at all is worse.
I also agree, to a point, with his assertion in last week’s column that there’s a power vacuum in the Middle East that’s making it easier for ISIS to commit atrocity after atrocity, and creating a refugee crisis of a size and urgency not seen since World War II.
The question I’d like to address in response however, is why. Bob seems to blame President Obama. I don’t think that tells the whole story. And no, I’m not blaming George Dubbya Bush, either — at least not entirely. I think the problem is bigger and wider than any one president or party.
Bob’s column recalls the spectacle of “American and Allied forces liberating Paris” and of the days when “America became the liberator of the free world as kisses were exchanged in Times Square.”
So far, so good. But remember what it took for us to do all that. The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked America almost overnight onto a war footing. As civilians lined up to sign up, our homeland standard of living changed drastically. Auto plants switched from making cars to making tanks and other war machines. New tires became nearly impossible to get. Kids collected scrap metal. Gas and foodstuffs were rationed. Buying war bonds became a patriotic duty.
And then, when the last German and Japanese soldiers had laid down their arms, we poured hundreds of billions of dollars into rebuilding their countries, because we knew that impoverished and broken countries were ripe pickings for the Soviets.
Can you imagine something like that happening now, in response to ISIS? Dear Lord, when the president endorsed a voluntary national public service program, he was accused of trying to create a new SS. His wife endorsed healthy eating and exercise, and suddenly right-wing pundits were screaming about “tyranny” and declaring it a sacred American right to raise a generation of roly-poly little couch potatoes.
We can’t even conduct a military training exercise in the Southwest without a pack of loonies — some of them in the U.S. Congress — taking to the airwaves and Internet to declare that it’s an invasion of the U.S. by its own Army. Oh, and support for “foreign aid”? Fuhgeddaboutit.
You want a World War II level response to ISIS butchery? You’re going to need a World War II level of citizen participation, sacrifice, and yes, money. And We the People haven’t been ready to do that for a long, long time.
It didn’t begin with the Obama administration. It didn’t even really begin with the George Dubbya Bush reign of error, although we did see quite a bit of the same unwillingness to even ask the people for sacrifice. Even after 9/11, Dubbya suggested we should just go about our lives, go shopping even. In the run-up to Dubbya’s Wacky Iraqi Adventure, we were assured, falsely, that “Iraq will pay for its own reconstruction” (Paul Wolfowitz), and that it was doubtful that the war would last six months (Donald Rumsfeld).
But, no, it didn’t start with them. It took years of short, easy-to-win conflicts against laughably weak opponents like Panama and Grenada to lull us into the feeling that the projection of American power and leadership is something that can be done on the cheap, something we could watch from our La-Z-Boy recliners before flipping over to watch “Jeopardy.”So the next time someone compares ISIS to the Nazis and demands that “American leadership” be used to defeat it, take a moment to think about what it took last time and ask them: Will you, personally, make the kind of sacrifices Americans had to make to defeat that enemy? Are you willing to pull together, even under a president you didn’t vote for, to make that happen? If not, then maybe in the words of the old saying, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”