On Fox News this morning, contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for a more expansive U.S. military operation against Islamic State, complaining that our allies are seeing “American ambivalence.” It seemed like an odd criticism – President Obama delivered a national address last week on his strategy to counter ISIS; White House officials have called it a “war”; and administration officials are recruiting international partners for a coalition to confront ISIS.
There’s ample room for debate about the plan on its merits, and there are plenty of questions about whether the U.S. plan will work. But “ambivalence” doesn’t seem to apply to recent events in any coherent way.
Making matters slightly worse, Brian Powell noted the on-screen graphic at the time. Fox News viewers were told that the United States “has conducted at least 160 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq,” and at literally the exact same moment, viewers Fox News were also told there’s been “no military action yet against ISIS.”
Now, in fairness, every network makes on-screen mistakes from time to time, and I imagine Fox’s graphics team probably wishes it could take this one back. It was almost certainly more a mistake than an attempt at deception.
But the cognitive dissonance – Obama is taking and not taking military action – nevertheless seems increasingly common on the right.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) complained on a conservative radio show last week about his disappointment that President Obama “won’t act” in response to ISIS. At the time, the president had already launched over 100 airstrikes on ISIS targets, which made it hard to imagine what McCarthy was thinking.
The week before, Bill Kristol said he was “appalled” that the Obama administration was doing “nothing” to target the terrorist group. At the time, the president had already ordered several dozen airstrikes against ISIS targets.
Let’s just walk through some of the basic metrics:
* There are over 1,000 U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq, with a few hundred more on the way.
* There have been over 160 U.S. airstrikes, spanning at least five key locations in Iraq (Irbil, Sinjar, Mosul Dam, Arirli, and Haditha).
* According to the Pentagon’s tally, 212 ISIS targets have been eliminated, including multiple armored vehicles, weapons systems, and facilities.
There’s no shortage of questions about the U.S. mission. Will it be effective? At what cost? To whose benefit? Are there better ways to work towards these goals? Are the goals themselves realistic and worthwhile? Does the administration need new legal authority to conduct this mission? Is Congress prepared to extend such authority?
All of this demands a real debate, but in some circles, we’re apparently still stuck at the start, with Fox News telling viewers today that there’s been “no military action yet against ISIS.”
Yes, actually, there’s been quite a bit of military action against ISIS. Can we perhaps now transition to a discussion about whether these actions have merit?