Of all the traditions, courtesies and protocols corroded by the Republican Party’s descent into blind partisanship, none is more regrettable and reprehensible than its abandonment of national solidarity in the face of foreign threats.
Once it was reflexive to stand behind, or at least defer to, the president when international threats exploded. But no more.
The casualties in Paris inflicted by terrorists linked to Islamic State had barely been counted when 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had an op-ed published in the Washington Post criticizing President Obama’s approach to the barbaric group’s occupation of portions of Syria and Iraq.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, epitomized the disgraceful tone of his party’s response, saying, “Never before have I seen an American president project such weakness on the global stage.”
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GOP presidential candidates were quick to follow. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee focused on information that one of the terrorists might have come into Europe with refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. He called for a halt to the U.S. plan to take in 10,000 of those refugees even though all of them are to be reviewed for possible security threats. And, in a shameless display of pandering to fears, more than a dozen Republican governors, unfortunately including North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, said they would block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states.
The gunmen who killed 129 people in Paris did so with one objective – to sow fear. That some U.S. leaders respond out of fear is the wrong response. What’s needed is a NATO-based approach that cuts away at Islamic State’s funding, eliminates its leadership, resists its expansion and counters its propaganda. That is essentially what the approach is now, but the coalition behind it must grow.
The Paris attack was horrific, but it’s also a sign of Islamic State’s desperation, not its growing strength. Sending a large wave of U.S. troops into the Middle East, as some Republicans suggest, would repeat the U.S. response under President George W. Bush that helped destabilize the region and led to the rise of Islamic State.
What will eliminate Islamic State is a steady and united application of financial pressure and intelligence measures in combination with military efforts by countries in the region. In the meantime, there is no reason to shut out war refugees or panic about U.S. policy.