If world events become yardsticks for greatness in leaders — big Abraham Lincoln sought to end slavery while little Stephen A. Douglas sought to accommodate it — then the rapid rise of worldwide Islamic terrorism leaves little doubt as to the Lilliputian stature of Barack Obama.
He simply doesn’t measure up.
Just as Sheriff Martin Brody came to the realization in the movie “Jaws” that they were “going to need a bigger boat,” Americans are coming to the realization that when it comes to dealing with Islamic terrorism, we’re going to need a bigger president.
Obama came into office in a post-9/11 world and inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While both were costly in terms of American blood and treasure, Iraq was “won” and Afghanistan was on its way to stabilization.
When I say “won,” of course, I mean that from an American perspective. (I wonder sometimes whether the White House views world events that way. But that’s another column. I digress.)
Saddam Hussein was dead and Iraq was stable enough to form an inclusive government and rebuild.
By underestimating radical Islam, however, President Obama failed to capitalize on a position of military strength in the Middle East. While the president takes in brunch on vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, Iraq is on the verge of becoming a terrorist state. It will, without doubt, bring more terrorism to U.S. soil.
Obama also toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi with no game plan for what came next. He made things worse.
Obama bluffed in Syria and was called, forcing America into an embarrassingly weak role in that country. He made things worse.
Our president couldn’t get on the right side of the Egypt turmoil, always backing radical Islamists in waiting. He made things worse.
And, as if to punctuate American global weakness, Vladimir Putin has made Obama look the fool throughout Russian aggression in the Ukraine.
Even rats have the good sense to abandon this ship. Obama’s first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, calls U.S. inaction in Syria a “failure” that directly benefited jihadists. In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton was asked about Obama’s slogan of “Don’t do stupid stuff” to describe his foreign policy thinking. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said.
But that calculated Monday-morning spin will not save Clinton from hard scrutiny when she runs for president in 2016. She helped create and implement the Obama Doctrine, such as it is.
Now President Obama is trying to rewrite the events that brought on the sorry mess in Iraq. He contends he left Iraq without a U.S. military presence because the Iraqi government made him.
What bunk. That’s cover-your-butt revisionism, and anyone familiar with U.S.-Iraq negotiations at the time knows it.
Obama abandoned Iraq against the better judgment of just about everyone. With no U.S. presence, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, pushed Sunni leaders out of government and fertilized the ground for Sunnis to turn to radical Islamists, who now threaten Christian minority communities in northern Iraq and the American consulate in Erbil.
In 36 months — the span of an American car lease — Iraq went from stability to a 13th century caliphate, persecuting Christians and threatening genocide along the way.
That’s why we’re again launching airstrikes in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The New York Times tells a revealing story about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff finally pigeonholing the distracted president in the back of a limo and revealing to him the state of Iraq.
“Looming over that discussion,” the Times reports, was the “specter of an earlier tragedy: the September 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and has become a potent symbol of weakness for critics of the president.”
So, here we sit — back in Iraq so the president won’t have another Benghazi on his hands.
The world needs a bigger U.S. president.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.