One Nation, Under the Covers in Hiding.The American people saw something on TV that scared them, so in his ritual presidential role as Mythic Daddy, Barack Obama had to go on TV and promise he'd drop bombs on the scary thing until it went away. It won't go away in reality, but that's not important, really. The bombs are for creating videos of dead non-Americans that'll make the bad dreams stop until the next scary thing comes along in a month or two. For sure it will. Fear Junkie Nation never has a problem finding a fix.
The Islamic State of Not Easily Translatable Arabic Word is an organization of very bad and people, murderous lunatics to be precise. They should scare people, people like Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, Iranians, you know, their neighbors. We are not their neighbors, no matter what cable "news" or panicky legislators say. Oh, they'd love to kill Americans in bulk, but IS has its hands full killing its neighbors in bulk right now.
The murder of two American journalists in Syria was a monstrous crime. Americans ought to be angry, and they are. But not they're not mad angry, they're afraid angry, an irrational response to horror that does us no credit as a society. It also does nothing to address the object of all that fear.
The U.S. is no more nor less vulnerable to mass terror attacks this afternoon than it was before its two citizens were murdered in a foreign country one third of the globe away. Having dropped the ball so horribly on September 11, 2001, our government has triple-locked its barn doors and the security measures, many ridiculous on their own, have worked as a group. Terrorist incidents here, like the Marathon bombing, have been one-offs by loners, the sort of crime most difficult to prevent no matter what its motive.
Yet polls show more Americans are convinced they in danger of imminent attack than at any time since 9/11. That's a dispiriting comment on the national moxie level. We saw other Americans murdered by foul criminals and said not "how awful," or "what can we do to stop this?" but "I'm gonna be next!"
Sad to say, the reaction to IS was only the second most dispiriting comment on the national moxie level this summer. The large numbers of Americans living hundreds and thousands of miles to the north who regarded a large influx of destitute, frightened children at out southern border as an existential threat took the grand prize in the Poltroon Sweepstakes.
Come to think of it, in my 65 years as a citizen, the U.S. has always been frightened of something or other. Some of the fears, like nuclear holocaust, have been utterly rational, others, like fear of the effect on our children of knowing the President had oral sex, somewhat less so. There's hardly been a month, let alone year, where the national mood was as self-confident as it was in the depths of the Depression. It's a short walk from habituation to addiction.
Addicts need pushers. There's a fear peddler on every U.S. corner. Fear sells, Fear gets great ratings. Fear wins elections. Fear makes people easy to fool.
Islamic State of Whatever should be a worry, not a fear. It is indeed a threat to the considerable national interests of the U.S. in the Middle East. Providing explosions on behalf of the useless government of Iraq to prevent its complete collapse is a legitimate if debatable policy which might well achieve that very limited goal. If Obama had just said just that the other night, he'd have spared himself a lot of trouble in the long run.
In the short run, of course, it would've been nothing but trouble for him. A vow of total victory is a mandatory element of every Presidential statement involving military action, no matter how impossible such victory may be. Despite several recent lost wars begun on the total victory principle, we remain an all or nothing people -- as long as nobody calls us on our call for triumph.
Imagine for a moment that Obama had gone whole hog all-in against IS Wednesday night. Suppose he had described the group as a grave danger to U.S. national security requiring a maximum and immediate military response in a conflict that would of necessity take years and would require both tax increases to pay for it and a partial reinstatement of the draft to complete that mission.
Would America have heard the clarion call and metaphorically and actually rushed to the recruiting stations? Would Congress have exploded in unanimous patriotic support? We all know the answers. Obama would've been impeached yesterday and on track for conviction next week. America is scared all right, but it's not THAT scared, not scared enough to personally make sacrifices to conquer fear. The rush of fright is preferable. We subcontract the real work to a small minority of brave citizens.
Fear Junkie Nation. Like many addicts, we'll tell you we can quit anytime we want.
We don't want to.