The latest atrocity by ISIS, the murder of Steven Sotloff, has many Americans losing patience with President Obama's measured approach to the group, even those who completely agree with it. While the President has called ISIS a "cancer," and said that our objective is to "destroy" the group, his necessarily deliberate approach to the policy has left a gaping bloodlust vacuum.
On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden gave Americans the anti-ISIS rallying cry they've been craving when he told a crowd at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that the United States will “follow them to the gates of Hell.”
"As a nation, we're united, and when people harm Americans, we don't retreat. We don't forget. We take care of those who are grieving, and when that's finished, they should know we will follow them to the gates of Hell, until they are brought to justice. Because Hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside."
That felt good, didn't it? Joe Biden is nothing if not President Pro Tempore of America's Heart. Already, people are using the contrast between Biden's remarks and the President's as a way to knock Obama, but this dynamic, Joe Biden as the cop with the phone book, and Obama with the rule book, is actually helpful to the United States' policy goals. We will be much more successful at getting other nations to contribute to the anti-ISIS effort if they take the President's cautious strategy seriously, while Biden and others whip up support at home for whatever action we eventually take.
This isn't the first time, though, that Biden has promised to pursue terrorists to the gates of Hell. In 2012, during the presidential campaign, the Vice President related the story of a much earlier invocation of the phrase:
Here’s how candidate Obama answered that question. He said, “if I have Osama bin Laden in our sights, I will take him out. I will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. This has to be our biggest national security priority.”
I was a little bit more direct. I said, we’d follow the S.O.B. to the gates of Hell if we had to.
That time worked out pretty well, so it's a decent bet that, thanks to President Obama, Osama bin Laden will soon have lots of ISIS assholes to keep him company. There are a few other things worth noting, though. First, there was the chorus of politicians who denounced then-Senator Obama for saying he'd go into Pakistan to get bin Laden, which included Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Republicans that Obama defeated in both of his presidential victories.
But it's also worth noting that everyone who slammed Obama then, including Biden and Hillary, voted for the Iraq War Resolution, the culmination of American bloodlust over 9/11. George W. Bush said a lot of things that made people feel good in the days following the attacks that occurred under his watch, but what he did was disastrous, and is a direct cause of what we face in Iraq today. I'm glad Joe Biden is there to make everyone feel good, but I'm more glad that his boss is there to show the good judgment that so many others have lacked.