US Strengthens Resistance to IS And ?
Obama’s decision to seek a declaration of war by Congress against IS (see below) is rather late given that the US has been conducting air strikes against it since last August without any such declaration. He now purports to be seeking “unity” within the US, although his decision doubtless also reflects the IS murder of a US hostage.
But with the announcement of additional military assistance to Jordan and Lebanon, Obama is moving in the right direction in tackling Islam extremism. While ruling out any “enduring offensive ground combat operation”, he now acknowledges that US forces may be used in situations where ground combat operations “are not expected or intended” and he also includes possible attacks on “associated persons or forces”. Importantly, he recognises that “If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland”. In short, he seeks Congress support to paint a situation in which the US is formally at war with IS and other similar extremist groups.
What this means in practice remains to be seen. As indicated by the NY Times editorial below, there will be political resistance on the left to an extension of US armed activity in foreign parts. There is also no attempt to indicate that the Muslim religion, when widely and increasingly interpreted in extremist terms in many countries, should not be accepted. On the other hand, the Republicans may make its support conditional on Obama giving support for a possible wider use of ground troops against Islamism. This seems to be accepted as necessary by senior US defence officials
IS in Australia
The last minute detection by police of the first (direct) IS inspired attack in Australia by two Muslims is coincidental but also provides an opportunity for Abbott to tell Parliament more than that IS is a “serious problem” (see below Reeling at new faces of terror after Sydney arrests). Note that the arrests are said to have been made possible because of new counter-terrorist legislation. Note also that, although the two arrested do not appear to have had a gun, the Commonwealth prosecutor is describing the attempt as a “very, very serious offence”.
With the Obama initiative, and the need for Abbott to recover his political status, it may be helpful for Australia to declare it is “at war with terrorists, jihadists and radical Islam”, as the French PM did last month for France.
Abbott has clearly decided to try to recover his political status by taking a more aggressive approach to handling policy issues and criticisms by Labor, and downgrading his use of central office. This has potential – but he needs to ensure that the “the story” about individual policies is clear and well understood. As indicated by Nikki Savva below (Down periscope: Abbott torpedoes himself), that does not appear to be the case on the policy on submarine acquisitions (his suggestion in Parliament that Shorten might contract a Russian or North Korean sub was absurd) or on the policy on medical co-payments. Not a good start to his assurance that “good governance” starts now.