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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shields and Brooks on Islamic State as ‘cancer’



From the PBS Newshour:

MARK SHIELDS: Well, American role is an obligation.

I mean, in 1994, for — for Ukraine to surrender its considerable nuclear arsenal at that time, there was a guarantee given by the United States and Western democracies and European nations of support and defense and security.

And I don’t think there is any question that that obligation is on the table right now. I mean, the plausible deniability that Putin could sort of hide behind has just been totally exposed, totally sabotaged, totally revealed for the fraud that it is. This, quite frankly, is an attempt on his part, whether it’s an alley or an avenue, down to Crimea and his concern about the water port and openness there.

But I think the obligation is there. And I think the world is watching. And NATO next week will bring it to a front.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this NATO’s responsibility more than ours?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s everybody’s.

This is — both the Middle East and what is happening in Ukraine are symptoms of the vacuum, a vacuum in the post — or in the 21st century order, and it’s partly an American — a vacuum of American power. It’s certainly a vacuum of European cohesion, power. It’s certainly an inability of the major countries of the world, including China, to get together and actually impose an order that will be good for everybody.

And so, when you have no order, then the wolves get more aggressive. And Putin has gotten more aggressive. And I think the administration, I think a whole lot of people in the administration have been very aggressive verbally, rhetorically. They understand the source of the problem.

I think the president has not been aggressive enough. This is an invasion. When you take over a part of the country to get — so you can have a land route to Crimea, that’s an invasion. It’s not a continuation of what they have been doing. It’s not low-level harassment. It’s a major invasion on European soil.

And so you just can’t allow that to happen. And, so, to me, the first step has to be, if the Russians are pouring sophisticated material into the — their proxies, then the West has to pour some more sophisticated material into our proxies, essentially. And that’s been an issue that has been debated over and over again. But I think raising costs for Putin, showing some commitment to the Ukraine, both financial and militarily, has to be at least the first step.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, we have had definition of invasion. Let’s — let me just pivot back towards Syria for a second.

If the U.S. makes attacks inside Syria, a sovereign nation, is that not a declaration of war?

MARK SHIELDS: I think — I think it meets certainly one definition of a declaration of war.

That’s why I think the debate — I mean, the debate that we didn’t have 12 years ago was — for example, if we’re going to do this — David is talking about 30 years or 20 years or whatever it is, a long twilight struggle, call it what you will — I mean, this is going to — it’s a country fights a war. An army doesn’t fight a war.

And if this country isn’t willing to fight a war, then we should never send an army. That is really — it’s not just something that we’re rooting or supporting the troops and standing up at a ball game.

This — we would be the first Americans since the Civil War not to accept the responsibility of paying for a war. In every war since the Civil War, Americans have increased their taxes. we need a debate on sacrifice being — the quality of sacrifice in war, as well as what the objective is. How do we know what our mission is?  How will we know when we have achieved it?

I just — I think it’s a — this debate is so urgent and so necessary to understand and to agree upon what we’re undertaking.

DAVID BROOKS: I do agree with that.

And the president has to — is playing a role. I thought the important statement he made was not the one that got all the attention, that, “I have no strategy.”  He keeps calling ISIS a cancer. And I think that’s the right metaphor. That suggests it’s going to spread, and it will spread unless you stop it, which if you diagnose this as a cancer, which I think is the right diagnosis, then you have got to do something about it.

And the paradox of the Obama presidency will be, it will be a much more militarized presidency in its final two years than any of us could have imagined. But the alternative is a Middle East that is much worse when he leaves office than when he took off — over, a Europe that is in much worse shape than when he leaves office than took over, a global world order that is in much worse shape.

And so figuring that out — and it’s not going to look like the wars of World War II. It’s not going to look like Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s going to be sort of a low-level war fought on all sorts of fronts, militarily, financial, otherwise. Figuring that out is still in the future for us all.

And so that’s why I do think we ought to link all these things and think as broadly as possible and have this debate Mark…

MARK SHIELDS: To his credit, the president doesn’t have about him that sort of counterfeit, synthetic macho that Americans leaders oftentimes affect at a time of national emergency.

He doesn’t have a swagger about him. And I think that is to his credit. At the same time, a president’s job, especially at a complex time like this, a confusing, confounding fast-changing world, is to be the explainer in chief. And he was anything but that yesterday. And that’s a responsibility that he has to fulfill.

DAVID BROOKS: That’s because he’s being dragged in against his will. He doesn’t want to be here. I don’t blame him. Nobody wants to be here.

But even within his own administration, within his own party, there are lot of foreign policy experts who take a more aggressive stand. His posture on foreign affairs has always been to dig in his heels and get dragged often against his will. And he’s going to dragged against his will to be much more assertive around the world in the final two years.

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