Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on September 16, 2014

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
“A previous version of this article stated that militants intended to attack an American aircraft. The intended target was an American aircraft carrier according to reports. Also, a previous headline for this article, ‘New Al Qaeda India Branch Attacks Wrong Ship,’ was updated to make clear that Al-qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is not solely based in India.”–Puffington Host, Sept. 14

We Have Always Been at War With Nearasia
On Friday, as we were finishing our column noting the Obama administration’s reluctance to describe the conflict with the Islamic State as a “war,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest was struggling to overcome that reluctance. In an exchange with CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, he ultimately succeeded:

Kosinski: The administration hasn’t wanted to call this a war on ISIS, but is it not a war?

Earnest: Well, that’s a good question, Michelle. There are a couple things that I would say about that. I mean, the first thing that’s important for people to understand is the president has made clear how the strategy that he is pursuing in Iraq and Syria to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL is different than the strategy that was pursued in the previous Iraq war.

The president has been clear that American ground combat troops would not be deployed into Iraq and Syria. The president has indicated how serious he is about building a true international coalition, where you will have governments in the region and our allies around the world contributing to this broader effort to deny ISIL a safe haven in Iraq and Syria.

Kosinski: But that happens in wars as well.

Earnest: Well, but this is–the reason that I say this again is, as the president and Secretary Kerry have described, this is consistent with the counterterrorism strategy that this administration has successfully implemented in a variety of other places around the globe. The question that you’re asking, though, goes to sort of the central question that is important for people to understand.

This is not a situation where it’s the United States against ISIL. The fact is, ISIL has indicated that they’re ready to go to war against the world. And this president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up to lead an international coalition to confront that threat and to deny ISIL a safe haven. And ultimately this international coalition will be responsible for degrading and destroying ISIL. So I think what you could conclude from this is the United States is at war with ISIL in the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its al Qaeda affiliates all around the globe.

So what exactly constitutes a “true international coalition”? “Secretary of State John Kerry has said nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight against the militants,” CNN.com reported yesterday. “But it remains unclear which countries are on that list and the precise role they’ll play.”

CNN comes up with 11 putative coalition members: in alphabetical order, Australia, Britain, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But not all of them are fully on board. As we noted Friday, the Germans have said they won’t participate in air strikes, and the Turks are refusing to allow the U.S. to stage them from Incirlik Air Base.

Twitchy.com notes a Twitter exchange yesterday between Boston Globe reporter Bryan Bender and Fox News contributor Richard Grenell. “Just read the NYT stories covering coalition of 9,” Grenell tweets. “If Bush had 9, there’d be front page mockery!”

To which Bender replies: “Bush had no coalition.”

That flat statement is manifestly false, but Earnest’s qualification–a “true international coalition”–leaves open the possibility of a distinction that makes Obama’s coalition superior to Bush’s. And it turns out that Kerry offered a similar qualification back in 2004. “When we went in [to Iraq],” then-Sen. Kerry said during the first presidential debate, “there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That’s not a grand coalition.”

“Well, actually, he forgot Poland,” President Bush replied. “And now there’s 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops.” That was the end of that exchange, but perhaps if Kerry had another chance to respond, he would have said the British troop contingent included no true Scotsman.

In his speech last week, President Obama made the curious claim that the Islamic State “is not ‘Islamic.’ ” NPR notes that Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron echoed Obama yesterday, saying of the Islamic State’s members: “They are not Muslims, they are monsters.”

London’s Independent reports that some British Muslims are trying to outbid Obama and Cameron:

A group of prominent Muslims has written to David Cameron to ask that he uses a different name for the group, and to lead a national debate on what it should be called.

“We propose that ‘Un-Islamic State’ (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda–and we will begin to call it that,” the letter says.

Do we hear “doubleplusunislamic”?

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”