Well, that’s a little extreme, but in this world of extremism run rampant, who’s to know or care?
Ordinarily we post weekly, on Friday mornings, as late as possible, so we can include a weeks’ worth of thought and examples within our pieces. Yesterday, August 8, we got ahead of ourselves and posted a day early.
By news time, we knew we were in trouble. Suddenly the President was to address the nation later about a matter, he said, of genocide. Where had we been?
We were as stunned as the rest of the country. Yes, we knew about ISIS or ISIL, whichever; we had been appalled and disgusted by that groups’ violence and hatred as shown by their actions against Sunni populations in Iraq, against Christian populations in Iraq, against Kurdish populations in Iraq. We knew they had been turned away from Baghdad, moving northwards to create continuing horror among the peoples of the north and east. We knew they seemed totally committed, fully armed, perhaps even brilliantly led.
Yazidis? Had we ever heard of them?
No, but soon enough we did. By the time the President spoke last night, one imagines that “Yazidis” had been Googled more than a million times. They are, or were, a small sect who do not intermarry with outsiders and who believe God gave the sovereignty of the world to seven different angels. There are, according to Wikipedia, 700,000 of them extant, period. Suddenly, 40,000 of them were stranded on an Iraqi mountaintop without food, water, bedding, supplies, medicine. They were surrounded by ISIL operators who threatened to kill them all if ever they descended from their mountaintop prison without first converting to Islam.
Then we heard the President who, incidentally, gave one of his best speeches ever, whether or not it was a valid response to the problem. It was direct, short (we want to stress, “Short”) clear, reasonable, and without a hope in hell of actually understanding what would come next. The speech was one any president would have given, Democrat or Republican, believing rightly or wrongly in America’s stated mission and power.
Flies in the ointment. Are our military really ready to do a one-eighty and head back to Iraq for any reason? Are our military strong enough to undertake a campaign that so perilously edges towards re-entry into that country? Are the citizens of the US likely to back this move against what Obama called “genocide”? As we wrote yesterday, this is an internal affair within one country over which we neither hold control nor have particularly strong influence.
What most impressed us, and we can only hope it was real, was the President’s easy familiarity with facts, with ideas, with reasons. This was a speech he may have hated giving but which we, as a nation, needed to hear him give at least once in his eight years. Too often cerebral matters had intruded in what the country believed was a slam-dunk response to what should have been. The failure to intervene in Syria was perhaps the most egregious and self-serving of them all. Here was a chance to re-balance American might in the Mid-East.
We hope the nation, Democrats and Republicans and Independents, can manage for once to agree that the president has done the right thing. For a few hours, anyway, the end-game is still completely unknowable.
We do not expect ISIL to cease killing “infidels.” We do not expect ISIL to run from its positions at the base of Mt. Sinjar in terror. We do expect that the US will stick to its guns regarding its citizens in Erbil, its advisors there and its embassy. Which may lead us to expect, with our hands over our ears and our eyes tightly squeezed shut, a far larger force of US military sent once more to pull Iraq’s irons from the fire. Which will certainly lead to American casualties. And having struggled to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years will throw us back into a position not favored by most of our voters.
But here, finally, if America is to mean anything to the history of the world, is an opportunity – if not perhaps the last opportunity- to right our own ship and begin once more to carry our heads high.
While all of the above is miserable business, it is business we can understand and business in which our nation has long prospered. We can’t know what the outcome of all this will be. But we can be fairly certain that 40,000 Yazidis will never forget what we tried to so, and neither will ISIL. Nor the rest of the world, in whom, if we’re lucky, we’ll find allies and friends eager to assist us in saving lives, customs, traditions, in effect an entire civilization in microcosm.