Welcome to another in our long-running yet rarely-necessary series, Joe Scarborough Is Right About A Thing. Episode IV: A New Dope. On Monday morning, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) appeared on Morning Joe to spew Republican derp about how President Obama shouldn't be taking "options" off the table because it's not "inspiring," while also maintaining that the last thing he wants to do is send in ground troops. What followed was the cable news equivalent of a dog performing a card trick, as Scarborough became one of the very few members of the media to expose the obvious flaw in that sort of, well, let's call it "thinking."
Johnson: We certainly left stabilizes forces behind in Germany and Japan and South Korea.
Scarborough: Far different than -- they weren't still being shot at in 1950 and 1951.
Scarborough was actually right about a couple of things. The first was the McCain line that we should have left a residual force in Iraq, because Iraq is just like South Korea and Germany. Senator Johnson tried that out on Scarborough, and Scarborough did what mainstream media folks like CNN have failed to do: he dropped a fact on him.
While I'm giving Scarborough major points for this because we're grading on a curve, he didn't really challenge Johnson on Iraq being a super-stable place when we left. Maybe it was Iraq-stable, the United States was still taking casualties right up until the last troops left Iraq in December of 2011, and the troops would not have been protected from Iraqi courts had they stayed past that time. You think getting out of Mexican jail is hard?
Then, there's the latest Republican line that while President Obama definitely shouldn't be sending in ground troops, he also definitely shouldn't be saying he's not sending in ground troops. Johnson tries to explain that "taking options off the table" (ground troops) is bad because it's not "inspiring" to Arab countries. This load has, once again, gone completely unchallenged by the mainstream press, which is either deliberately ignoring or completely blind to the concept of public diplomacy. It is a sad state of affairs that Joe Scarborough has to set them all straight:
I would seriously like to talk about kicking them out of NATO. Turkey and Qatar. Qatar, let's get our military bases out of Qatar and declare war on Qatar,
Oops, sorry, that's the wrong quote. I don't actually agree that we should declare war on Qatar. Nobody's perfect. Here's where Scarborough nailed it though:
Johnson: When the president establish a goal, but then takes options off the table, is that particularly inspiring? Does that help build that coalition? I'm not saying you throw troops in...
Scarborough: My only criticism of the president's strategy is he shouldn't haven't offered anything until they stepped forward and offered everything. they are the governments that are facing an existential crisis. it's the moderate Sunni states in this area that are actually the ones that have to worry about themselves, and their wives and their children, being dragged out and crucified or hung or shot dead.
Scarborough's response is far superior to any I've seen from he mainstream press, so I'll take it, and he's absolutely right that President Obama's strategy should have been not to offer "anything until they stepped forward and offered everything."
What he misses is that this was President Obama's exact strategy from the beginning, when he talked about limiting airstrikes in Iraq until the Iraqi government "got their shit together" (a slight paraphrase). Then the beheadings started, and he had a finer line to walk where public diplomacy is concerned. President Obama needs to convince Americans and terrorists that we will kill the shit out of terrorists, which Americans support, but not put more Americans in close where these guys can hurt them, which Americans don't support. But we need Arab states to step up, which they are far less likely to do if they know that the cavalry is at the ready.
Make no mistake, though, the cavalry is at the ready, ground combat troops are all over the table. It's just not to the government's advantage to call them that. They need the public and the Arab world on their side, and neither will be "inspired" by the promise of American combat troops on the ground.