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David Brooks on Airstrikes: "Bold" Obama "Took Off The Reluctant Cape This Time"

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama, Mark, went before the United Nations, talked about defeating the network of death, the Islamic State, appealed for the world to come support the United States. Is that speech going to make a difference in the success of this effort?

MARK SHIELDS: I don’t know, Judy.

I mean, it certainly was a speech seeking allies and making the case and making it, I thought, far more assertively certainly than the president did when he spoke to the nation. And there obviously was a different constituency that he was seeking.

But the White House is frank that this is a β€” seeking a reset of the president’s leadership credentials, or burnishing his credentials. And I do think that it was a more muscular speech or a less conflicted speech.

But, Judy, when you talk about destroying an ideology, I mean, Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, I was talking to this week, and he said, who writes this stuff? You know, you don’t destroy an ideology. You defeat an ideology with another ideology, with another philosophy, another point of view, in addition to content.

And these people are the ideal villain, the ideal adversaries. They are the worst of humankind in their actions. But it sort of hearkens back to the end of tyranny in the world, which his predecessor, George W. Bush, spoke of. There is a rhetorical overreach, I think, to the speech.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You think the president advanced his case?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so. I think it was mostly revelatory about his own mind.

And so he had been half-measures, ambivalent, oh, I don’t want to do this, reluctant. Well, clearly, he took off the reluctant cape this time. He was β€” people have accused him, and he has been sensitive to being called professorial and wan. And he was un-wan. He was whatever the opposite of wan is.

MARK SHIELDS: W-A-N.

DAVID BROOKS: W-A-N.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: So, he was bold and forthright and simple.

And he spoke β€” he gave a speech in West Point a few months ago where he said military force is not the answer. Well, when you’re fighting a military effort, military force is actually the answer. He has been stepping back some of the emphasis on democracy. He stepped that up. And so he was just more aggressive, more assertive

And I think, as revelatory of his mind, I think, one, he really thinks these guys are evil, that you just can’t allow them to exist. Two, he does feel the responsibility to rally a coalition. You can’t do it with an uncertain trumpet.

And I do think there β€” mixed within the high rhetoric is a pretty realistic goal. We’re not going to reshape the Middle East. We’re not going to bring peace to Syria and Iraq. We just want to make sure the worst that could happen will not happen. And the worst is an ISIS caliphate in the middle of the Middle East.

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