On Sept. 20, 2001, just nine days after the attacks on 9/11, former President George W. Bush told Congress that the United States would wage a “war on terror” against militant Islamic group al-Qaida.
Here we are in a similar spot 13 years later, but something is different. This time, as the U.S. launches a series of air strikes at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the world stands beside it.
The strikes, which began Monday evening, are part of a “broad coalition” between the U.S. and 40 other nations, including five Arab countries, to confront the terrorist threat that ISIS presents, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
Forming a coalition like this is a strong approach to foreign policy by Obama, who just three weeks ago told the American people that he didn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIS.
This strategy, though violent and intrusive, appears to be the best of bad options. The U.S. is well past the point of reasoning with ISIS, which released videos over the past two months of the beheadings of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley and British aid worker Alan Henning.
The president is right in saying that terrorists shouldn’t have a “safe haven” anywhere, whether it’s in Iraq or in Syria. Of course, the Pentagon had to weigh options in Syria carefully, as to not give more power to corrupt Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Crippling ISIS, Assad’s primary enemy, could allow Assad to focus his efforts on the battle against Syrian rebels.
The air strikes are also targeting the Khorasan Group terrorist organization, which the Pentagon believes was close to executing a terrorist attack on the West. White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Wednesday that the group’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, was killed in this week’s strikes, according to unverified social media reports.
But the Obama administration decided that launching strikes against ISIS outweighs the global security threat that Assad’s regime presents. The next step, according to Obama, will be to train and equip Syrian opposition to fight ISIS and Assad’s regime.
It all sounds beneficial to global security, but is this the end to the ISIS threat?
There is still work to be done, just as there is still fear. The terrorists, who credited the beheadings of Sotloff and Foley to American intervention in Iraq, will be looking for retaliation after the recent air strikes.
But it’s comforting to know that this is not America’s fight alone anymore.