- Associated Press - Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, Sept. 11, 2014

America has been at war for 13 long years. On Wednesday night, President Obama made it clear that it will remain so for years to come.

During a prime-time address, Obama presented a four-part strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State terrorist group. That plan includes “a systematic campaign of airstrikes” in Iraq and Syria, more support for Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition, greater vigilance in stopping foreign fighters from traveling to the Middle East to assist the Islamic State, and continued humanitarian assistance for Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as Christians and other religious minorities.

He also uttered words that we hope remain true throughout the military campaign: “I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”

Obama and Congress need to do everything in their power to make sure that promise is kept.

That effort begins with making sure Iraqi and Syrian forces have the ability to seize and control terrorist-held areas following U.S. airstrikes. It is to that end that Obama announced that 475 additional service members will be sent to Iraq, for a total of 1,600 U.S. personnel. If the Iraqis, Syrians and Kurdish peshmerga fighters are unsuccessful in retaking ground, the airstrikes may have little more than a disruptive effect on the terrorists.

Here at home, the benefits of building a strong coalition of support cannot be understated. During his speech, Obama said: “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”

The legal arguments over presidential authority aside, Obama would be wise to aggressively seek support among lawmakers in both parties rather than just welcoming it. If the military campaign against the Islamic State stretches into the next administration, which it very likely will, a broad consensus now would make that eventual war handoff significantly smoother.

As Pete Hoekstra, a Republican former U.S. representative from Michigan told Peter Baker of the New York Times, “what we need is a consistent doctrine that Republicans and Democrats from one administration to another can embrace.”

He is absolutely correct, but with a midterm election just weeks away and a wide-open presidential race set to begin in earnest, such bipartisanship is easier said than done. It’s our hope that this deeply unpopular Congress recognizes an opportunity to prove to constituents and the world that the leaders of this country still have the ability to act as one when the security of America and its allies is at stake.

The battle to destroy the Islamic State promises to be unlike any war America has ever fought. The president, as Baker wrote, has just plunged the nation into “the middle of one of the world’s bloodiest, most vicious and fratricidal conflicts.” The plan the president outlined on Wednesday night is prudent and necessary, but it is our hope that the commander in chief and his generals effectively apply the many lessons learned in 13 years of war.

The Republican of Springfield (Mass.), Sept. 10, 2014

America is stronger when our allies are stronger.

That, put plainly, is why folks in the United States should care whether Scotland votes to secede from the United Kingdom.

A disunited Britain will be a weaker Britain.

There’s been lots of talk of late about the economics of the matter. For good reason, too. For one thing, neither Scotland nor England has a real plan about how to go forward if the two lands, linked for more than three centuries, are suddenly severed. The United Kingdom, as measured by nominal gross domestic product, is the world’s sixth-largest economy. To throw that into turmoil will do no one any good. Even some of the questions that have been raised - No one knows what will happen to Scotland’s 143 billion pounds in debt, most of it guaranteed by Britain - have had a destabilizing effect on markets. Additionally, while Scotland has said it will continue to use the British pound, that isn’t a certainty if the union is dissolved in the Sept. 18 vote.

There’s also the fact that England has long been our most reliable ally.

When push comes to shove, we know that we can count on the Brits, and the Brits know too that they can count on the Yanks.

This wouldn’t change if Scotland were to split away from the U.K., but England will obviously be less capable of sailing staunchly beside us when it is struggling to keep its own ship of state afloat.

We understand well a people’s shared identity, their desire for self-determination. But it needn’t trump the strength that can come from a genuine union.

We’ve got our own version here in these United States. One can be proud of one’s own state - we certainly feel that about Massachusetts - while at the same time believing in, and pledging allegiance to, the whole.

We can only hope that the Scots, at the end of the day, find themselves similarly disposed.

Imagine a group of Scots assembled around a table. “Here’s to Scotland,” one says, raising a glass. And after murmurs of assent from those around the table, another might call out:

“Yes - and to the United Kingdom!”

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