It's been a week since the great speech, and there has been little beyond solemn statements of support, along with reservations about doing anything concrete.
The President boasted of a multi-nation coalition. In one statement it was claimed that 40 nations had signed on, with no American boots on the ground.
So far there are no boots headed for the ground.
The coalition may now be down to 10 or a dozen, depending on who is talking, but with little more than talking involved. Several Muslim countries have offered their support, but without troops. Turkey has forbid that American planes use NATO facilities in Turkey for their missions.
Among the nastiness of various comments are
- coalition of the uncertain
- coalition of the unwilling to be identified by name
- coalition of the willing and unable
- lackluster coalition of the willing
- how willing is Obama's coalition?
It could have been predicted by all perhaps except the Secretary of State, noted for his ponderous platitudes that have produced a minimum of results here or throughout the Middle East.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has weighed in with another blessing of Islam. Perhaps we should be forgive him, bothered as he must have been by the threat of Scotland's secession along with the ugliness of his countryman's beheading.
"They boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters,"
On the same day I had been on the fringe of a conversation between Muslim friends, which they conducted in Hebrew for my benefit.
One said that violence has been inherent in the history of Islam. Another said that Sunnis have generally been more peaceful than Shiites, but that there were too many factions within Islam for him to comprehend.
Arabic speaking Israeli commentators, supposedly experts of the subject, speak about a multitude of groups whose names they do not know for sure, competing for headlines, recruits, money and body counts across Syria and Iraq, as well as in the Sinai and various other spots across Africa and the Middle East.
The rest of us should admit that we cannot comprehend the continued blather of Cameron, Obama, and others about Islam being a religion of peace.
Sure, they do not want to ignite the millions of Muslims already among their voters, or the billion Muslims worldwide. At the same time, a simple standard of intellectual honesty suggests that they should avoid fibbing about the obvious. Cameron's speech writers could have crafted something that condemned murder without that nonsense about a religion of peace.
The more honest among us should admit that none of the religions is without the blemish of violence in its history, doctrines, or the current practices by some of those claiming to be faithful. However, those saying that they are the most faithful of Muslims are now the most violent, brutal, or barbaric individuals operating under the umbrella of a religion.
We should not envy the task of Obama, Cameron, and whoever might join them, perhaps determined by whose citizens find themselves the center of a filmed beheading.
The coalition mentioned includes European countries with competing economic interests in the Middle East, and Muslim countries competing on a variety of theocratic and political issues.
Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia are potential allies of the US with military assets to oppose ISIS and other extremists, but each have strong reservations about cooperating with one another or with the United States.
Those intent on understanding Turkey must reckon with its concern for Kurds, as well as whatever may happen right over its borders with Iraq and Syria. The Turks are most likely assessing the prospects, including the chance of American bungling.
Figuring out who to aid in Syria is its own set of mysteries, given the record of the Assad regime as well as the multitude of groups claiming to fight Assad and/or one another.
Obama's promise of keeping American boots off the ground in Syria and Iraq may already be crumbling.
According to General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
With no Muslim countries sending their boots to the American led coalition, one can imaging the tensions within the Obama White House with competing assessments and pressures about what is good for the President and for his country. The President followed Demsey's comment with his own affirmation of not sending troops, but we have learned never to say never.
On another front, President Obama has announced plans to send 3,000 military personnel to Liberia to fight the spread of Ebola.
The mission is to construct and staff care centers and supply medical kits meant to protect from, or cure Ebola..
One can hope that Obama's advisers have done the analysis that weighs the benefits of this action to the President and the United States, against the prospect of easing the passage of Ebola to the United States.
There is no shortage of messiness closer to home. A Palestinian, UN, Israeli agreement on construction materials for Gaza, without a commitment to de-militarize the area, but with UN supervision to assure that they will be used for civilian purposes.
Israeli officials say that the move is meant to dampen the prospect of suffering among Gazans that would work to provoke further violence against Israel.A missile landed in an Israeli field late on Tuesday, followed by Hamas claims of good intentions and the arrest of the perpetrators.
One measure of Gaza's misery appears in the 15 migrants drowned on their way from Egypt to Italy. According to a report by Aljazeera, they were among the 10,000 Palestinians who have fled Gaza via tunnels under the Egyptian border.
We can couple our mourning for 15 dead Palestinians with the concern for still-functioning tunnels to Egypt, and worries about what flows in them to Gaza with munitions from Iran or Libya.
Assuming the UN will monitor the use of construction materials in Gaza is equivalent to declaring that Islam is a religion of peace.
In case no one noticed, UN personnel allowed their schools in Gaza to be used for storing weapons and fighters, as well as launching missiles toward Israel. And UN troops are the ones recently seen going to safety in Israel from their posts in Syria.