- - Sunday, March 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Everyone but the president of the United States seems to understand that the civilized world is in an all-out struggle with the pure evil of radical Islam. The Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, is gaining ground and by consolidating the several radical Islamic terrorist groups around the world it has become a formidable foe.

President Obama’s speech last week in Havana was directed, he said, to the Cuban people as well as their Communist leaders and the American public. It was a plea for a new era of communications and collaboration with the Castro dictatorship. It was the tenor of his remarks that was disturbing, particularly his not-so-subtle innuendo that before 1969 the United States tried “to control Cuba,” a throwaway line in his endless apologies for America’s leadership of the free world. If the president actually believes that he needs a refresher in American history. After victory in the Spanish-American War more than a hundred years ago, when Cuba could have been taken as permanent American territory and many Cubans wanted to become an American state, the United States helped the revolutionary leader Jose Marti establish Cuban independence.

Cuba faces an uncertain future now. President Raul Castro is 84 and the dictatorship is clearly on its uppers. Its Soviet sponsor is long gone and its Latin American friends are in even deeper economic and political trouble. But President Obama, whether intended or not, threw the Castro brothers a lifeline with his visit and gave them a helping hand. Neither he nor the Cuban people got anything in return. Throwing new political prisoners into jail, and beating up the wives of those already there, was not a good omen, nor were Raul Castro’s childish gestures of petty rudeness.

Mr. Obama demonstrated his obliviousness of the world on fire when he insisted on delivering his formal prepared speech at just the moment when a new chapter of terrorism was being written in Brussels. There is hardly a terrorist expert anywhere who does not think that radical Islamic violence in Europe is soon to be repeated in the United States. The bombing of the Boston Marathon, murder at Fort Hood, deadly shootings at military installations in Chattanooga and Little Rock, and savagery at San Bernardino is inevitably a foretaste of more to come.

Mr. Obama’s 51-second acknowledgment of the Belgian atrocity was grudging and insufficient. Counter-terrorist officials in Belgium and in Berlin and London say privately they are overwhelmed by the prospects they see dead ahead. The sophistication of the weaponry and the coordination at Brussels tell them that ISIS is gaining on the Americans and the Europeans. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is using all the tools of the new digital world. The American response has been a limp incremental effort to bring the terrorists to heel, with no long-term strategy.

The president must begin the preparation for a merciless effort with no quarter given to destroy ISIS. Whether the struggle is indeed World War III, as Pope Francis calls it, the needed campaign demands the president’s full attention and the mobilization of a new military effort in the Middle East. The American public is no doubt weary of wars and rumors of wars, but a president cannot lead from behind with soft words and eloquent condolences after every outrage. Leadership requires a determined effort to resolve threats to the nation’s survival, and that begins with the acknowledgment of the seriousness of the threat.

 

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