From The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
"It will take a global coalition to defeat ISIS." Secretary of State John Kerry CNN, August 30, 2014
"We will degrade and destroy ISIL through an international coalition and long-term counter-terrorism strategy."
President Obama, September 10, 2011
The other road demanded a steady hand and a long-term strategy in the face of the unprecedented destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. It meant taking advantage of world shock and a shared world fear to create a comprehensive international coalition against terrorism that was global, inclusive, coordinated, strategic, sustained. As many analysts have wondered, we perhaps missed an opportunity to capitalize on global outrage to forge a global coalition against unimaginable terrorism that threatens all nations. On the other hand, this road is extremely hard to take.
Obama and Secetary of State John Kerry are doing all they can short of on-the-ground military intervention to reduce the hate, extremism and violence that is unraveling the world. This is what the American people say they want. No more wars. No more US involvement in the internal conflicts of other nations, be they in eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa. No more lone ranger. The lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan have sunk in. We lost billions upon billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and many more maimed, with no good outcomes. We armed and trained and fought, and for what?
If the American people and their elected officials are so adamant about non-involvement, "no boots on the ground," why keep attacking Obama? He's getting pummeled from the left and right, Democrats and Republicans, for being "too cautious." I understand it, and part of me agrees because the violence is so gruesome, so against international humanitarian laws and sensibilities. But I know in my heart it is not the right road. Even in Ukraine, which haunts me. War is seldom the right road.
So, why not work together on a new direction, still evolving, in American foreign policy, and explore the road less traveled? Why not try to create that "global coalition" that the president is talking about? It will take a global village to stop terrorism.
Yes, there are risks. Will Arab countries step up? Sunnis and Shia? Who will be our "boots on the ground" partners? What about Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Turkey, and the Arab League nations, always reluctant, often in conflict? What about the EU nations, who usually hold back, let America carry their water for them, but who might now feel more directly affected?
It's possibly easier to go to war, to take the path of violence, than to develop an inclusive and effective global strategy against terrorism. The road less traveled means forging a foreign policy based on Rule of Law, humanitarian values, a common global agenda and shared global concerns. It means uniting people of different faiths, beliefs, political views, economic ranking, social values. Maybe it's naive, idealistic. Strong undercurrents push against it, chief among them the selling of arms, the powerful arms race that undermines every peace effort. But I believe it is the right path. The one we did not take after 9/11. The one we need to take today.