Op-Ed: The Roosevelts and ISIS by Fletcher Hall


While watching the recent PBS series “The Roosevelts,” the American public was reminded that leadership is the essential component of every successful presidency. This leadership quality has been the hallmark of every truly successful American president since George Washington.

Being able to lead the American people forward, rather than “leading from behind,” is key to the American presidency. Today our lives, democratic ways, culture, and religion are being threatened by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Make no mistake, the current ISIS threat, while different in many ways, is no less a threat to civilization than that of the Nazis. The current conflict may well be a war without end.

The vacillating, impractical, and seemingly ever-changing policy of the current administration is both confusing and uncomfortable to the American public. The percentage of Americans now seriously concerned with the ISIS threat grows daily. Public beheadings do not assuage this concern and only exacerbate fear. Strong leadership is needed now. Unfortunately, that leadership has appeared in short supply in Washington until just recently. Is it too little too late?

Strong leadership and pragmatism are needed in the White House in order to establish a coherent mission and set America’s armed forces on a defined path to totally defeat an ominous enemy. Time is of the essence in any adequately developed plan of attack. The seemingly diverse positions of the President and military leaders are not healthy and, indeed, rather divisive to our citizens who look to the White House for clear, well-defined policy in matters of both urgency and importance was the ISIS threat.

Recently, having been finally forced to announce a strategy and plan to destroy ISIS, the President indicated a coalition of the willing was being established to assist in this essential objective. Without leadership, such a coalition will be nearly impossible to assemble and maintain. An appropriate coalition already formed before any action is implemented most desirable. For example, in The Gulf War the United States enlisted some 30 nations before embarking on military efforts. Thought somewhat small, with various degrees of commitment, let us hope the recently established coalition holds together.

It is increasingly obvious that drones and air strikes alone will not defeat and destroy ISIS. Many military and political leaders in the nation are of this opinion. One of the traits of strong leadership is to listen. Congress needs to listen and debate in order to declare war on ISIS and terror in general.

The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Recent history should have taught the current administration that fledgling democracies need continued U.S. support in order to survive. Creating vacuums in these nations increases the possibility of dangerous organizations like ISIS to develop. Strong leadership in the office of the president should prepare the American people for such realities. Leadership that demonstrates mission and purpose. As commander-in-chief the President certainly has the leadership role of “defending the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Since 9/11, this leadership role of the President has taken on heightened significance. It is obvious that the current forces of evil wish to destroy democracy both abroad and in the United States.

Strong, effective leadership is currently needed and will be a major issue in the 2016 general election.

Letters to Editor

  1. Stephan Sonn says:

    There he goes again. The Chatty Kathy of DC lobbyists.

    It is all about lumping together all them there evil foreigners, ISIS, Rooskies, The Yellow Menace and Denmark where flipping McDonald’s can get you $22 per hour and all those others who would destroy
    his version of democracy which he calls ours, as if in sharing. But nary a word about Koch libertarian cultural roulette that former US middle class survivors now live under.

    Nary a word.

  2. Pete Buxtun says:

    “Congress needs to listen and debate in order to declare war on ISIS and terror in general.

    The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.””

    The fact that these two sentences are right next to each other fills me with… I’m not sure really. Confusion? That Mr. Hall could be so incredible self-deluded that he actually doesn’t see the comedy in writing this? Frustration? That this is perhaps how many Americans view foreign policy; young men in fatigues shooting other young men who “we” disagree with? Smug satisfaction? That this article reads like a Koch-fueled fever dream and not an actual argument FOR anything in particular except that ISIS is bad (Fletcher, EVERYONE thinks that!). Oh, and that Obama is the worst president in history because… because, he just is!

  3. Ah, another target-rich dispatch from Mr Hall. It’s hard to know where to start in commenting on this rant.

    The thing that struck me most while watching the PBS series, The Roosevelts”, is how nothing has really changed in American politics in almost a century. Both Roosevelts actually succeeded in using government, yes, big government, as a pragmatic tool to better the lives of middle-class and poor Americans and, as such, are still Kryptonite in the conservative world. And today’s conservatives incessantly harp about the exact same things with President Obama that they did with TR and FDR. So if Mr Hall counts the Roosevelts among the “truly successful American president[s]” and as paragons of leadership, it seems to follow that President Obama must be on the right track since he is constantly being criticized for the same things and for the same reasons.

    In fact, it is instructive to directly quote FDR from a speech he gave at the New York State Democratic Convention in 1936 to see just how similar things still are.

    ROOSEVELT: “There will be—there are—many false issues. In that respect, this will be no different from other campaigns. [Republican] Partisans, not willing to face realities, will drag out red herrings as they have always done—to divert attention from the trail of their own weaknesses. This practice is as old as our democracy. Avoiding the facts — fearful of the truth — a malicious opposition charged that George Washington planned to make himself king under a British form of government; that Thomas Jefferson planned to set up a guillotine under a French Revolutionary form of government…They called Abraham Lincoln a Roman Emperor…Woodrow Wilson a self-constituted Messiah”.

    Sound familiar????

    But pressing on, Mr Hall recovers his Teapublican bona fides by pivoting to the anti-Obama trope du jour: “Leading from behind”. In Mr Hall’s use of the term it apparently means President Obama is not out in front demanding a formal declaration of war from a cowardly Congress, rushing our troops hell-bent into another meat grinder in the Middle East, and emptying our Treasury yet again. Talk about not learning anything from history.

    Let’s get this straight. ISIS alone is not yet an immediate existential threat to “our lives, democratic ways, culture, and religion”. That is just plain, flat-out fear mongering on Mr Hall’s part no doubt meant to tilt the upcoming mid-term elections to team GOP. But that does not mean ISIS is to be dismissed. They are barbarians fueled by religious fanaticism that, if left unchallenged, could eventually have major negative economic and political consequences worldwide. However ISIS is not the only problem in the Middle East, by a long shot. There are layers upon layers of complexity going on there that defy US military solutions. Today one can enumerate at least nine conflicts going on simultaneously that are rapidly shuffling the deck and shifting old alliance structures: Israel vs the Palestinians; civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen; the Kurdish fight for Independence ; region-wide Sunni vs Shiite strife; political Islam vs fundamentalist Islam; authoritarian rule vs democratic movements; and most all established states vs ISIS. And that’s not even counting massive dislocations of refugees, an eventual nuclear armed Iran, and Russian meddling.

    Knowledgeable commentators have made credible observations that what we are witnessing is nothing less than the dissolution of the Middle East order established after the demise of the Ottoman empire. We do not have enough weapons, soldiers, or money to deal with all this. Defeating ISIS with a Bush-style US invasion of a country or a region is not a rational concept. It’s going to take the people and states of the region, and their money, to sort this out. Whatever we do under these circumstances will require thoughtful, measured action and leadership not hyped-up warmongering only for the purpose of scoring political points at home. For me, I’ll take President Obama’s approach any day over people who subscribe to the John McCain worldview.

    • Ed Plaisance says:

      Well said.

      Wish everyone was as in tune with the Middle East realities which you enumerated. Having lived in the Middle East for 35 years, I shake my head when I read commentaries like Mr Hall’s. Where/how does one start to reply to such a scatter-gun blast?

      I have only seen part of the Roosevelt documentary–excellent, but I would wager that if he were living back then, Mr Hall would be just as opposed to FDR’s leadership, which has been characterized more than once as “winging it” and “opportunistic” and caused Eleanor no end of grief as he put his “social agenda” to one side.

  4. GerryMaynes says:

    Hi, yes T,R would have sent troops in by now and just a guess, If he were president today the Russians , China and Isis and the rest of the world would think twice, before messing with us. That simply was his nature.. However, He has been dead for a very long time, so it is silly to ponder such things. What we do have is a president that has created a mess of the world, Who no other country seems to respect. He has only two years left. We would be better served, taking the time to ponder what qualities this country needs in our next president and start looking at the next crop of possible candidates. The current occupant is not going to change and less some unknown ( God Forbid) Watergate event happens, will continue on his merry way, just like James Buchanan to the end of his term. So, let us look to the future. Gerry

    • Ed Plaisance says:

      Well, I guess that modern-day Teddy would be called “W”…he sent in the troops…and what did it get us? It could be argued…ISIS…and I think the last time I looked it was a trillion-dollar tab.

      Please elaborate on how Obama has “created a mess of the world”?

      Seriously, when you make a claim like this, you better have some extensive evidence to present. I think we all would love to learn what you know.

      Re “who no other country seems to respect”… having lived half my life (35 years) outside the USA, I can tell you that on the one hand this concern is totally irrelevant, and on the other hand we are the country that everyone (well, most everyone) wants to come to, while at the same time they scratch their heads oftentimes wondering what the hell we are doing.

  5. As long as the rulers in the Middle East remain corrupt, and Sunni’s and Shiites continue fighting amongst themselves, there will always be war. As long as this country supports the corrupt rulers in the Middle East and/or take sides between Sunnis or Shiites, this country and it’s citizens will always be a target of those that fight in the Middle East that are happy to die for their cause.
    Those that live day to day in the Middle East are probably a lot like ourselves. They want food on their table, a roof over their head, freedom to worship as they please in a place that’s safe for their families to live. As long as the rulers of their country can’t provide those basics they’ll look for other people that can.
    We’re not fighting a Country with identifiable boundaries but an idea that once planted in someone’s head can’t be erased. Stomping on these people will only make their ideas squish out to other areas and they will stink many times worse.
    Right now the Air war in the Middle East is costing 10 million dollars a day and it costs 1 million a year to keep each set of “Boots on the Ground” in that area.
    Insanity can be defined by doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results….are we there yet?

    • Ed Plaisance says:

      Everyone I met in 35 years in the Middle East is exactly as you described them. Of course, I don’t hang out in jihadi circles…but then again, most Muslims don’t either.

  6. Ed Plaisance says:

    Mr Hall is fond of using “recent history has/should have…”
    Quoting Mr Hall,
    “Strong leadership and pragmatism are needed in the White House in order to establish a coherent mission and set America’s armed forces on a defined path to totally defeat an ominous enemy.”
    …recent history (and previous history for that matter) has clearly shown that there is absolutely no military way to totally defeat such an enemy. There was a famous quote by some military genius during the Viet Nam war whose solution was to “…bomb them back to the Stone Age”. Well, we saw how that turned out…Viet Nam is one of our good trading partners today…I just bought a shirt made in Viet Nam, and I just saw a handsome dining set from there.

    In fact, all the military testimony I have heard recently counters such a solution as Mr Hall proffers.

  7. Ed Plaisance says:

    For those of you who have been on this merry-go-round before, I have referred to a service I subscribe to, Stratfor, and have half-jokingly said we should outsource the CIA to them. Again, I am providing a link for everyone to see what real analytical, non-partisan, writing looks like. These are issues that any U.S. president would be dealing with today, even if his name was not Obama. And, it is a nightmare.


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