Column: Dear Obama, Brussels needs more


President BarackObama answer a question about the recent attack in Brussels during a joint news conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The world mourns with Brussels, which suffered a deadly terrorist attack on Tuesday that killed over 30 people. This is just the latest of a string of attacks in Western cities carried out by the Islamic State and its affiliates. There was the Paris attack in November, then the San Bernardino attack in December and now an attack in Brussels. In the face of these relentless attacks, the United States must take greater action to demonstrate its solidarity and cooperation with our European allies as we confront this struggle together.

The Islamic State was quick to take responsibility for the Brussels attack, threatening future attacks: “We promise the nations of crusaders that are allied against the Islamic State that dark days lie ahead, in response to their aggression against our State.” 

While the U.S. is already doing much to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State, we must continue to evaluate our strategy. As bombings and shootings in Western cities continue, we should consistently strive to adopt an approach that will best ensure the safety of our communities.

This must be done in close partnership with Europe. The threat to Europe’s peace and stability is severe. It continues to experience deadly attacks with great loss of life. With many of our greatest allies under siege through repeated terrorist attacks, we must take affirmative steps to respond to this crisis in concert with Europe. While President Obama rightly called the Prime Minister of Belgium to express the sympathy and continued support of the U.S., the gravity of the situation merits further action.

This week, President Obama undertook a historic diplomatic trip to Cuba, opening relations with the communist country for the first time in decades. Admittedly, however, some of the optics (such as Raúl Castro forcing the President’s limp wrist into the air) have not been good for the President or the U.S. In the wake of the Brussels attacks, the President should return to the U.S. in appreciation of the danger our country faces in the future. He should then travel to Europe, as he did not do in the wake of the Paris attacks.

If the president truly wants to demonstrate his solidarity with Europe, he should take the initiative to meet with European leaders. Ideally, the president should organize a conference to discuss and coordinate the international response to attacks of this nature. We must affirmatively show our commitment to stand with Europe and address the Islamic State head on. Europe should not feel that our support is lukewarm. A personal visit from President Obama will assure them of the strength of our resolve and support. 

Unfortunately, the president’s policy regarding the Islamic State has been rather rudderless and vacillating in practice. Though we have repeatedly bombed ISIS targets, the president has not shown the personal earnestness that motivates foreign politicians such as David Cameron or François Hollande. This is likely due to President Obama’s naturally cool demeanor and deliberative approach. While these attributes have their benefits, they have often prevented President Obama from taking spirited action with resolute purpose. This has been particularly evident in President Obama’s foreign policy. As yet, there is no clear and realistic policy goal for Syria. Granted, the Syria quagmire is probably beyond the ability of the United States to fix. Yet when conducting operations abroad, we should have a clearly articulated goal for what we wish to achieve and take effective action directly related to that goal.

As he winds up his important visit to Cuba, President Obama should take actions to demonstrate the seriousness with which he regards the threat of Islamic terrorism. We should not doubt the sincerity with which the president denounces the horrible actions in Brussels and his commitment to fight terrorism at home and abroad. Yet he lacks a vigor and zeal that we would like to see in response to actions of this nature. Of course, the leading Republican candidate (in many ways the polar opposite of President Obama) demonstrates the dangers of an excess of zeal. The president should respond to this tragedy not only with words, but with action, and action that demonstrates our concern for our European allies and our determination to stand with them in what is likely to be a long and bitter struggle. 

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