- - Monday, September 22, 2014


Tough times never last, but tough people do. So said Robert Schuller. However, tough times show who the tough men are, and dangerous times compel those tough men to stand up and take action. Now is perhaps the most dangerous time the world has faced since World War II. Like Winston Churchill — who was once described as “the lion who roared when the British Empire needed him most,” the world demands and freedom demands that the president of the United States — the leader of the free world — stand up and roar.

Tragically, the evidence to date suggests that President Obama is not this generation’s Churchill. I have often said that Mr. Obama and his advisers have a dangerous tendency to view world affairs through the prism of a textbook. They see what they would like to see — not reality. This worldview has served the administration badly and led to repeated foreign-policy disasters. However, the true depth of Mr. Obama’s disconnect from reality only recently became apparent when he told a group of donors gathered at a Democratic National Committee barbecue in New York: “If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” and that “things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago.” In fact, “we are much less vulnerable than we were 10 or 12 or 15 years ago.”

Really? Less vulnerable? What about the Islamic State? According to media reports, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 foreigners have traveled to join the fight on the side of the Islamic State, including between 1,500 and 2,500 extremists from Europe and 100 to 200 Americans who hold American passports and consequently will have a far easier time re-entering the United States if their terrorist activities go undetected by authorities. That, of course, assumes the terrorists will try to enter the United States the legal way. During the last week of August, high-level intelligence officials and federal law enforcement issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies along our southern border indicating that terrorist attacks might be “imminent” for Texas cities and towns located near the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s believed Islamic State terrorists are operating in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, and are planning to use the border to gain entry into the United States to carry out their attacks. The flood of undocumented children streaming across our southern border unhindered is proof enough that the terrorists can do it.

The Islamic State, aka ISIS, is a real threat to America as well as countries in the Middle East. We must defeat them over there and protect our borders, or we will face them here in the future.

The world is not a sea of tranquility. We are not less vulnerable today than 10 years ago. The world is in a period of historic turmoil that could result in catastrophic consequences unless we meet them head on. We no longer have the luxury of being confused, hesitant or passive. Hoping that the world’s problems are suddenly and magically resolved by “international allies” who confront these threats in lieu of American leadership is not a strategy. In large part it was the abdication of American leadership that allowed these crises to become as dangerous as they are.

Going after ISIS with only air power from the United States is a recipe for disaster. America must lead in all areas if the ISIS terrorists are to be defeated. Other countries in Europe and the Middle East won’t put armies on the ground unless we are there with them.

When the president first took office in 2009, he said that he would look to the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for guidance. In FDR’s first inaugural address — the famous “fear itself” speech — Roosevelt also said, “This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.”

The president must stop shrinking from honestly facing conditions in our country and the world. Stand up and be the tough man. We must lead, and airstrikes alone from the United States won’t get the job done. Other countries will be there, but only if they see us in the field with them. To defeat ISIS, we can’t use half measures.

When Roosevelt and Churchill went to war against Hitler, they knew that to defeat the Nazis, the free world had to go all out to win. They knew the threat, and they really acted. So should Mr. Obama.

Former Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee.

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