There are few instances in history where an issue has the power to unite two leaders, separated by tension, and make them willing to put aside their differences and link arms in solidarity. This past weekend, terrorism was that issue. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas joined 40 world leaders to march in the historic Paris unity rally; sadly, the leader of the free world was nowhere to be found.
It is well known that the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President have a strained relationship, yet both united in the Paris demonstration. If these two leaders were able to recognize the importance of their attendance at such a momentous time in history, why wasn’t our Administration able to put in at least an equivalent amount of effort? President Obama was not able to attend—so it was said; why couldn’t we find someone like Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry to go in his place? The fact that no high-level, recognizable American figurehead was in attendance is unacceptable.
After 9/11, the president of France, Jacques Chirac, was the first to visit New York and Washington, D.C.—showing the depth of relationship between the U.S. and France. Instead of simply expressing U.S. support for our allies verbally, it was the Administration’s duty to show a much stronger physical presence at the rally. Not only would it have demonstrated our support for France, but it also would have sent a message that the U.S. does not tolerate foreign or domestic terrorism.
By now, President Obama has probably felt the weighty repercussions of his inaction; therefore, it is not helpful to blast him further for being absent on Sunday. It is more imperative that the U.S. recognizes that the missed rally is just a symptom of the real sickness; the greater issue is the current Administration’s weak foreign policy of “leading from behind” and its continual use of watered-down rhetoric regarding terrorist activity. By not calling radical barbarism what it truly is, it appears to the rest of the world that the Obama Administration neither takes the attacks seriously, nor plans to respond forcefully to militant extremists.
In a recent article, Senator Cruz said, “[a]id workers, members of the media, government, cafés, law enforcement, Christians, Jews, and even other Muslims—these are the targets of radical Islamists. They want to destroy civil society.” The goal of these extremists is to establish a caliphate, or a land ruled by Islamic government, all over the world; therefore, this is an at-all-cost ideology that is a threat to all other nations.
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First, there are the attacks on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo followed soon after by the blatant anti-Semitic violence at a French Kosher Market. Then there’s the tragic scene as Boko Haram murdered 2,000 people in Nigeria during their deadliest massacre yet. Terrorism is not just an issue for foreign nations, it’s in our backyard, and we must take the recent threats seriously. Just this week, ISIS social media outlets were calling on members of radical Islam to directly target NYPD and other Americans, which was followed by the recent hacking of the Central Command Twitter and YouTube accounts. When will this end?
The answer is that it may not; that is, until the leader of the free world decides to not only be vocal, but forceful in its response. According to a recent poll, 70 percent of Americans believe that ISIS is the greatest threat in the Middle East, and 57 percent of Americans say that the U.S. must intervene at a necessary level to defeat ISIS. A majority of Americans agree that, as the leader of the free world, it is our duty to take a strong stand against terrorism. As former President George W. Bush said, following the attacks of 9/11, “[t]he enemies of freedom committed an act of war.” May we remember that we are not invincible and acknowledge that the recent terrorist attacks are an act of war—then respond accordingly.
It’s simple. The U.S. must act offensively to defeat terrorism at its source. If we don’t act quickly and forcefully, I fear our only option will be to continually act defensively—here at home.