Sen. Lindsey Graham talks with reporters after stepping off the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 21, 2013.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Lindsey Graham lays down a terror marker

That Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on a Sunday show to complain about President Obama was not surprising. What was jarring, however, was rhetoric like this.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, sharply criticized the limited scale of President Obama’s military response to ISIS on Sunday, and called on the president to be clearer about the threat the militants pose to the United States.
“If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you guys want to call it, they are coming here,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is just not about Baghdad. This is just not about Syria. And if we do get attacked, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”
This style of argument comes from time to time, and it always strikes me as odious.
In this case, Graham seems to be laying down a marker: if members of the Islamic State, at some point in the future, execute some kind of terror strike on Americans, Lindsey Graham wants us to blame President Obama – because the president didn’t stick to the playbook written by hawks and neocons.
The senator’s on-air comments are also a reminder of how little has changed, at least rhetorically, over the last decade. Graham didn’t literally say, “We have to fight them over there so we don’t fight them over here,” but that certainly seemed to be the gist of his argument.
At the risk of sounding picky, it’s not exactly clear what Graham is proposing by way of a policy. The senator seems to want the Obama administration to engage ISIS militarily in Iraq, but let’s not forget that U.S. forces were on the ground in Iraq for over a decade but couldn’t completely eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq, which later evolved into ISIS. Does Graham think another decade ought to do the trick?
For that matter, the South Carolina Republican also wants U.S. forces engaged in Syria, but let’s not forget that the Assad regime is fighting, among others, ISIS. Fighting both sides of Syrian civil war probably isn’t a good idea.
I’m not suggesting that the ISIS poses no domestic security risk; there’s probably evidence to the contrary. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said last month Islamic State may pose a “longer term” threat to America.
But if the right wants to discuss that risk, they’ll have to do better than, “Let’s blame Obama now, just in case tragedy strikes in the future.”