WASHINGTON: The allied air strikes against ISIL that brought together the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Jordan “are a watershed moment” in the fight to solve terrorism, “the major security issue of our time,” one of the most rational defense lawmakers in Congress said today.
Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the strikes offered the chance for Muslim and Arab countries to publicly prove to the terrorists, to the rest of the world and to their own citizens that they will not countenance terrorism in the name of Islam. “From mosque to mosque, from schoolroom to schoolroom there’s got be a shift, a very strong shift against terrorist acts in the name of Islam,” Levin told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.
Levin’s comments were particularly interesting in light of President Obama’s speech today before the United Nations General Assembly in which Obama said that the Islamic State understood only “the language of force” and that the U.S. would “work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Obama placed the war against the terrorists in ISIL and the Khorasan group in the wider context of the web of security challenges the world faces right now, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 to the West African epidemic of Ebola and the physical threats from climate change.
My favorite moment from Levin’s last appearance before the DWG came at the end, when he looked up and down the ranks of the gathered reporters and told us that he really hoped the American people would learn that we have accomplished a great deal of good in Afghanistan.
We have helped build a “strong” and “well-liked” Afghan military, boosted school attendance numbers from 800,000 under the Taliban to 8,000,000, with 40 percent of those girls, he told us.
“They’ve made some amazing progress and they believe it’s because of we did what we did,” the senator said, noting his familiarity with the country from the dozen visits he’s made to Afghanistan and the many meetings he’s held with its leaders. All Afghans are glad.”
Afghans constantly say in polls by numbers of 70 to 80 percent that the US has helped them build a better country.
Americans, especially our troops and their families, “have a right to feel real satisfaction” at the outcome. I think Levin’s right, but the American people have grown so weary with the war in Afghanistan that I’m not sure they can listen to or see what they have helped wrought.