In Brussels, Europe Is Struck at Its Heart

Mar 23, 2016 · 503 comments
Iver Thompson (Pasadena, CA)
In the United States, Islamic State terror also plays into the hands of demagogues, chief among them Donald Trump, with his call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration and his embrace of torture to fight terrorism.

That's true, but only because of the previously ineffective passive approach to do anything to stop it.
Chris Keefe (Ellsworth, Maine)
It is disappointing to see someone of your experience fall so readily to short-term thinking. It is so easy to manipulate public opinion, to keep conflicts alive, to grow violence - simply throw a bomb. One had hoped for a measured response from you.
ZAZ (Houston, TX)
"Obama's slow-but-steady strategy doing nothing to dent the charismatic appeal of the militant group, disrupt its propaganda or prevent it from killing Europeans". The Europeans, not Obama, should have a strategy in place to prevent European deaths. Obama should have a strategy in place to prevent American deaths, and part of the strategy is to not send American military to the middle east. Ever heard of the thousands of US casualties in Iraq?
This is one more blunder of the Europeans secret services in particular from Belgium, and does not have any thing to do with Obama strategy. Belgium is steadily receiving intelligence support from the EEUU and US, and yet the terrorist are able to go on with their work even if every other day there is a major police operation in Brussels and two days ago Salah Abdeslam was arrested, obviously in Belgium.
In Belgium it is illegal to obtain search warrants from 9PM to 5AM, and so every night from 9PM to 5 AM terrorists are free to go on with their business. To carry on such sophisticated operations terrorist must have deep pocket. The real questions is which of our 5AM to 9 PM allies provides financial support to the jihadist . Money always leaves traces behind, I am sure that many of them lead to Saudi Arabia.
Paris Artist (Paris, France)
This is not Obama's problem to solve.
France and England were the colonial powers in the Middle East and have been miserably inadequate in integrating their under-educated and under-employed Muslim populations. It was glaringly obvious already when I moved to France 50 years ago. That problem has been smoldering on, unaddressed, for many decades.
The European ISIS terrorists are essentially disgruntled European youth.
Frank (San Diego)
Let me guess, Roger. You have no kids in the military, right? And, with no draft, none of you or your elite friends will be impacted if the United States goes into a massive war in the Middle East. What you should do, first, it explain to me again why the Sunni/Shia conflict and ancient rivalries in the Middle East seriously threaten the safety of the United States. If you cannot explain why we are directly threatened by their military forces, you sound just like another pathetic warmonger.
John Xavier III (Manhattan)
If the hand-wringing pseudo intellectuals on this board (vast majority) had been in charge making decisions in 1940 (or more precisely not making them), we would all now be speaking German.

Sometimes war does solve problems. An enemy must be defeated.

None are so blind as those who will not to see.
Kathy Kaufman (Livermore, CA)
Defeating an ideology is one of the most difficult things to do. It would help if the leaders of Sunni Islam would get together to condemn this radicalism, loud and often, and explain how it is not part of their religion. That message needs to be told over and over again. And if Islam has in its tenets the ability to cast out these radicals, that would perhaps be more effective than the image of all those virgins.
JTS (Westchester Count)
Shameful that the powerful US doesn't use intelligence-gathering to ID the sources of food, fuel, toiletries (I'm being serious), and water to ovations that are ISIS strongholds. Air strikes (including nuclear and/or atomic bombing, if necessary) on these targets should hasten ISIS's demise. I make this statement - and I am a PASCIFIST! I am also tired of yet another speech by our president and other politicians to the tune of "We will not let terrorism win." What we've done s far has not worked. Time for historic, violent, decisive and successful intervention - NOW - or ISIS will prevail.
Gary Valan (Oakland, CA)
When you need common sense please read the comments section in the NYT. They writers here tend to pour cold water on irrational hasty action. Maybe if the former Pres. W had read the Times' readers comments when they were debating war w/Iraq we could have saved ourselves a lot of lives, ours and theirs and of course planeloads of cash. What a waste.

I am really going to miss Obama when his term is done, we can rest assured that among the current sorry remnants of Presidential candidates (except Bernie) all would in one way or another be more willing to blunder in and make a bigger mess in the Middle East, Africa and any other hot-spot than it was before them.
Enemy of Crime (California)
I'm too late to this, but it appears Cohen wants us to send another army to the Middle East.

The Europeans have got armies of their own, all the boys and girls in spotless camouflage fatigues and the latest gear standing around uselessly on sidewalks after an atrocity like this. Send THEM to Syria and let them get their uniforms a little bit dirty.
ScrantonScreamer (Scranton, Pa)
If there are home-grown terror cells hiding in urban neighborhoods across Western Europe, what will be accomplished by sending more American military power into the Middle East? Shouldn't the war be waged in those neighborhoods?
Full Name (NY)
This is what we get for being sucked into a society that is dominated by a hyper PC attitude towards facing radical islamic terrorism. I don't consider myself a conservative, (as most readers of this comment would LOVE to assume) but I am smart enough to recognize patterns in these disasters.

My question is this: for how long will we continue to dance around this topic without taking real action because of the fear of offending certain people. Are people not offended that lunatics driven by a skewed view of a religious belief are killing innocent people around the world?

Israel does not have this problem. In fact they have the solution. They profile. Not racial or ethnic profiling, but profiling based on security evidence that identifies potential perpetrators of terrorism and evil. But this won't happen in the United States because of the polemically charged PC environment that is hindering our national security.
eric smith (dc)
Better ponderous (Obama) than reckless (Bush).
Scott Emeery (Oak Park, IL)
Exactly what approach, Roger Cohen, do you advocate, with what known costs and what risks? Is it multilateral or unilateral, and what defines success for these actions? Approximately what budget and timeframe is acceptable? If we assume a multilateral coalition, how do the leading partners in that coalition mandate the continued acceptance and implementation of the policy as political leadership changes? What other priorities related to security or other goals, receive less funding and attention to pursue your to-be-defined policy and the action steps that correspond to it? What death toll for coalition forces, or specific curtailments of liberty is acceptable to you in reaching your ill-defined goal?

It is irresponsible journalism to fan the flames of aggressive action without a full consideration of the possible consequences. This is a lesson from fearful or poorly conceived writing supporting many a military engagement over time. Most prominent, in recent years, was the nearly uninhibited media support for the misguided and costly American incursion into Iraq. Complete your thoughts, Mr. Cohen, with a comprehensive plan that addresses this complex problem from a variety of angles and in many dimensions without resorting to the simplistic emotional lever that uses fear to move societies to destructive military engagements.
John Xavier III (Manhattan)
There are no easy answers? Only for weak intellectuals.

Yes, there are.

Defeat ISIS now. Do whatever it takes. ISIS will not go away, and taking "20 percent" of its territory is laughable .... Untreated, ISIS will metastasize into something much worse.

What's Obama waiting for? Another US attack? The date he leaves office so he has an "unblemished" pacifist record, leaving it to the next Administration to clean up his mess?

Who destabilized Syria?

Who destabilized the Middle East by withdrawing?

Who, me?

Hola, Raul .... you guys are the cornerstone of my foreign policy ... thanks for letting me visit. Hey, Raul, you got Maduro's number by any chance?
Dadof2 (New Jersey)
The fundamental premise of this piece is, as are all right-wing "analyses" of the day's issues, is that it's all Obama's fault. It doesn't matter if it fits the facts or not, if it's bad, blame Obama. The running joke now is, if something bad happens, like you get a flat, or a kid spills his juice on your meatloaf, you say "Thanks, Obama!" mimicking and exaggerating how all the talk radio, Fox News and Republican pols blame the President for things left him by President Bush, caused by Republican obstructionism, or simply beyond any President's control.
The article ignores the obvious: These attacks are taking place in Europe (including Istanbul). Why? Because the Europeans, suffering through an economic downturn have abandoned working together. Hard to believe, but American intelligence efforts at preventing external terrorists is working far better than Europe's. So Belgium isn't working with France, which isn't working with Germany, which isn't working with Italy, which isn't working with Greece or Turkey...and Britain is looking to get out completely. Is it any wonder?
Brussels is the seat of both the European Union and NATO. That makes it a natural and obvious target.
And all of that is out of the control of President Obama or any President. All the President can do is encourage our allies in Europe to realize that unless they work CLOSELY together, they'll never root out ISIS.
Perhaps it is in Roger Cohen's best interests to engage intensely in the Middle East (more young blood and American treasure) but it is certainly not in the best interests of the USA. This is not Europe in the early 1940s. If boots are needed on the ground, it's about time that these are Saudi or Israeli. It's their back yard-- not ours.
Jeff (Evanston, IL)
So Mr. Cohen is saying that President Obama is wrong in refusing to send infantry into Syria to fight ISIS. By infantry he means other people's sons, daughters, husbands and wives. After the Bush administration's disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's hard to think that anyone would suggest doing the same thing again. President Obama is right to take a slow, deliberate approach because it is the only approach that will work. Any infantry in Syria must come from Arab countries.
ch (Indiana)
President Obama said that defeating ISIL would take years. Maybe the instant gratification pundits, who sit in their comfortable offices and don't have to take responsibility for anything, should listen.

The attacks in Europe may be a direct response to coalition success in taking back ISIL-controlled territory in Iraq. ISIL leaders did say very clearly that they want to establish a caliphate, and they obviously are not happy with international interference with this objective. An essay in the Nation has a very interesting perspective on this:
Steve (<br/>)
To the point you so assiduously avoid in your column: what would you have the President and the US do?

If you have the answers, please do share them.
judgeroybean (ohio)
More liberal than conservative. Voted for Obama twice. However, I think for the greater good, our country has to stop trying to fight this battle against terrorism with both hands tied behind its back. Sometimes there is no palatable choice when facing extremists.
In WWII, the United States could have landed soldiers on the beaches of Japan, and fought house to house, in order to bring a radicalized Japan to its senses and stop hostilities. But we did not take half-measures when facing a culture that would rather face suicide, than the shame of surrender; we used atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course, the destruction was so terrible, that we, and the world, have been beating ourselves over the decision for 70 years.
Today ISIS, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and other radical groups, have brought perspective to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Innocents died in those two cities, but for the greater good. It was not an atrocity or war crime to drop those bombs. Nor would it be to use nuclear weapons on ISIS. No hand wringing. No second thoughts. No warning.
There is no other choice against a culture of death. The paradox is that this ultimate weapon will serve to protect many, many, more innocents than it destroys. It has come to that point.
Jerry Frey (Columbus)
"It is not working" because Obama isn't a leader.
Frank F. (San Francisco)
Thank you George W. Bush and the brilliant neocons. This was as predictable after our invasion of Iraq as sunrise is tomorrow. Nice work.
Harry (Olympia, WA)
Mr. Cohen. Who are you to pronounce that Obama's approach isn't working? There will be far more blood spilled before the struggle against the evil of Isis fades, the question is how much more. We Americans know where the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan got us. We know the Roman Heel doesn't work and will bring more blood. Call us isolationists, I call us and our president wise. Europe can figure this out for itself.
Don Shipp, (Homestead Florida)
There is a very easy answer as to why Tora Bora and not Raqqa. It's Osama Bin Laden. He was at Tora Bora. What happened in Brussels was egregious, but it's not an existential threat to U.S. National security. Roger has been pushing for American involvement in Syria and criticizing Obama for months.He was wrong then, he's wrong now. He fails to comprehend that ISIS would exist with or without Raqqa. ISIS exists anywhere the Internet is. It's existence is independent of any geographical area. Roger doesn't seem to understand that every successful terrorist attack or close call by a jihadi in the U.S. since 9/11 has been by an American citizen, not a foreigner. Faisal Shahzad Times Square, Najibullah Zazi NYC subway,Hassan Nidal Ft.Hood, the Zharnaev brothers Boston, and one of the San Bernardino bombers, we're all U.S.citizens. Should we invade ourselves Roger? The idea that U.S. military intervention in the Middle East can be dispositive is absolutely inane. ISIS exists for one reason, the U.S. invasion of Iraq.The evidence is irrefutable. Isn't one Iraq enough Roger?
Leigh (Qc)
There are no easy answers, but Roger doesn't mind suggesting at least one; namely, invade and conquer. When have we heard that before?
Everyman (USA)
Well I was wondering how long it would take before someone blamed Obama for this. Didn't really expect it to be you though. I was thinking, Cruz, Fox News, Cheney, etc.
su (ny)
Why Obama needs a strategy to stop ISIS in Europe. this is not WWII or ISIS are not Nazi's occupied Europe.

This is a common responsibility period.

Paris, San Bernardino and yesterday Bruxelles attacks has one very important common point.

1st - They are plotted by individuals not a network of huge organization.

2nd- It is direct hit not elaborate attack, fill the luggage with bomb enter the Airport and blow it, as far as I know only luggage check is done in Europe is exist in Istanbul , the rest you walk with your luggage till ticket desks. It is true for US airports.

3rd- Europe neglected the dire reality of millions of refugee migration, it was going on last 5 years, Italy and Greece screamed , fell on deaf ears.

4th- Why Obama? , we are already trying to repair the mistakes done by Bush/Cheney administration, IRAQ war. But dominos are falling fast.

Lets get real, we need immense security and vetting process in Europe. Even EU accepted that member nations are not sharing the intelligence each other, but borders are open, what could go wrong in this context.

Obama is right an d very wisely handling this issues.

P.S: American intelligence explained that ISIS is using encrypted recruitment app. This is not an easy fight and you cannot stop with drones or bombs.
DW (Toronto, Canada)
This is magic wand stuff. Why don't you wave it?? I don't understand why you don't wave it. If only you'd wave it--

Oh wait, there are no magic wands. Only thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of troops once again inserted into a quagmire with no foreseeable outcome. Has the United States not tried that?

There are no magic wands. How I wish there were.
Bonnie Rothman (NYC)
Sadly, Mr. Cohen like many people doesn't have a clue about what is necessary to fight extremism and terrorism but is too filled with emotion to admit it. In their helplessness they lash themselves to anger and testosterone driven overwhelming use of force. Boy, that has worked really well, which is why we have ISIS in the first place. This is not WWI or WWII; it's not even Korea or Vietnam. This is more like fighting city gangs and drug smugglers albeit ones with an other worldly agenda. Fighting a religious philosophy that is used to intimidate and rape and murder and pillage is not like fighting a national government. Fighting religious thugs is a decades long battle and I suggest that all the politicians and commentators who think there is a quick solution through massive use of force should lead the parade or study history for a better response, one that doesn't create two new jihadis for every one who is killed. This sort of "thoughtful solution" is what produces 17 dumber than dirt candidates for the Republican nomination. Horrible, horrible, horrible. All the men who argue for a massive military response need to chill out and stop being so emotional. This is akin to killing a Hydra, look it up.
antonionio (SF Bay Area)
Mr Cohen, you act as though Raqqa is waiting there for US to pluck, and disregard the fact that there are many civilians within it, who would be jeopardized even further than they now are, by any massive assault. This is the main differentiating factor from your "Tora Bora" approach of igniting combustible vapor to scorch any and everything in range; this would not do well for civilians.
We can and will defeat daesh through cooperative efforts with allies, necessary pseudo-allies, intelligence and Intelligence.
We will jointly kill them one by one.
We would simply brighten the jihadi flame by sending in Western ground troops en masse.
Threats to America or Europe don't require the presence of daesh in Syria, Iraq; maybe they once did, but that cat's long out of the bag.

Here's my 5-step plan:
1) train drones to ID Toyota trucks, period, boom baby boom
2) send a swarm of cheap drone cams to map every street and building
3) target points of daesh concentration ID'd by the drones; refueling, comms etc
4) send larger drones with grenades, live cams and actively target moving daesh dogs, boom.
5) at tipping-point, civilians retrieve arms and fight, with help of smaller force of muslim fighters, Kurds etc waiting in "the wings".
6) on to Mosul, repeat
6) then work on Saudi Arabia's support for certain dangerous madrassas, funding, evangelizing. Offer a reward for reporting madrassas which are preaching violent external jihad, as opposed to the true, internal jihad of the koran.
TR (Saint Paul)
More neocon warmongering, this time from Roger Cohen. I suspect he pines for another neocon presidency -- from Hillary Clinton.

I prefer our current President's approach. The only thing more I would wish from Obama is that he confront the real evil empire -- Saudi Arabia. That is who is funding all this fundamentalist extremism.
Ruben Kincaid (Brooklyn)
How is this a failure on the part of the President? This is a tragedy that has been long in the making, and Brussels dragging its feet in rooting out their homegrown terrorists is a major part of it.
They found more bomb materiel in Schaerbeek - why can't they lock down the entire neighborhood and open every door?
Brian (Brooklyn, NY)
How many Americans have been killed by ISIS terrorists? 14 in San Bernadino? So you would have 100 times that many or more die in a pointless war in Syria to dislodge ISIS from Raqqa, just to have them crop up somewhere else? ISIS isn't an army or a territory, it's an ideology that only gains strength when we capitulate to our fears and jump to the war drums. Obama gets it. We are going to have to deal with the terrorism threat, just as Israel has, from now on. There is no ultimate, satisfying victory over terrorism.
D.N. (Chicago, IL)
A lot of people who believe this criticism also believe that fighting ISIS is exactly like fighting the Nazis in WWII. All we have to do is "go in there" (wherever there is) and kick some Muslim butt. How ignorant a view! Why not just hand the jihadists the keys to NYC while we're at it. The Middle East never had an enlightenment so we are embroiled not only in a clash of cultures but a clash of centuries and it is beyond any president's ability to shape the outcome in only his or her image. The most we can hope for is moderate, if imperfect, containment, and thankfully this administration has understood that reasonably well. This sort of critique, void of any actual solutions, is meaningless in solving an intricate and intractable problem.
Frank (Denver)
Fight them in Belgium or fight them in Syria. Syria is the better choice.
Steven (East Hampton)
It is absolutely capitulation led by the chief appeaser, President Obama.

Besides allowing the horrors of the Islamic terrorists to proliferate, Obama's foreign policy has led to the ascendancy of Iran and Russia in the Middle East, not to mention all but assuring that Assad of Syria will remain in power.

What a disaster. It was emblematic that Obama was at a baseball game in Cuba in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks. A true leader would have flown home immediately to address the world wide threat that these Muslim extremists pose.

And remember, Obama can't even mouth the words "Muslim terrorists" or "Radical Islamic Jihadists" because he is afraid to insult Muslims.

Foreign policy based on political correctness is absurd.

Obama is the Chamberlain of our times.
Bunnell (New Jersey)
Really thoughtful piece, Mr. Cohen. Love the way you so clearly spell out an alternative. And tell me, Mr. Cohen, were there any adventures that you supported in the past that may have set the stage for this “magnetic assertion of Sunni jihadi power” that you so lament?
John (New Jersey)
I read the comments...allow me to summarize the majority....

If we ignore them they will go away.

Ulrich Aldag (Portola Valley, CA)
Dear Roger,
First of all, words about what Obama or, whoever else, should have done in the past are a nuisance right now. Could you explain what you would do, here and now? Paratroop US marines to capture Raqqa – or what is it?

Second, I would ask the heads of the European governments to declare unilaterally that, regrettably, these acts put Muslims in European countries under gross suspicion unless they are showing evidence of cooperation with the authorities in pointing out criminals or people that have returned from Syria recently. Europeans need to see very clear Muslim cooperation, in whatever form, by those who have decided to live here.

Third, I would suggest to cordon-off, in a symbolic act, the Molenbeek quarter of Brussels and interrogate and register every inhabitant – knowing full well that the criminals might escape jumping roofs. But without testing the commitment of the community of Muslims for help, the problem will never be solved.

My concept rests on the conviction that we can trust in human decency and that Muslims are not an exception. But we need to see some proof now.
fran soyer (ny)
There is only one candidate who harbors the very people he says hates us in exchange for money.

That's a successful businessman ?
Longue Carabine (Spokane)
Reinstitution of borders and customs controls should be done anyway. It's absurd to have no border control between nations, in the face of these issues. Was Europe unfree because it had national borders and customs? Is the US unfree because it has border controls with Mexico and Canada? Of course not.
Opeteh (Lebanon, nH)
Indirectly blaming President Obama's Syria policy for the bombings in Europe plays just into the hands of carpet bombers and agitators who exploit our irrational fears. And it's dishonest as well, because the civil wars in the Middle East go all back to our ill advised invasion of Iraq. And what exactly do you propose, Mr. Cohen? Nothing of any substance, because there is no credible alternative to the realpolitik of the Obama administration.
mike (dallas)
Western Europe has been on a "free ride" depending on the US military to defend them. It's time they got the message that 70 years after WW11 the USA does not want to be their army. We should start pulling out of Europe and let them begin to pay their own way. We can use the money for health care and roads here.
Saima (Egypt)
Wow!!! It's amazing to listen to the comments. No sooner there were demonstrations against the Ghaddafi, US had NATO bomb Libya, no sooner there were demonstrations against Assad, US teamed up with Saudis to train and arm "moderate" rebels to take out Assad. A moderate by definition is not one who does not pick up an RPG and blows up a building. No sooner there were demonstrations against the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, United States was providing arms to the regimes to crush rebellion. No sooner Houthis overthrew the government with minimal loss of life, United States ramped up weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. And let's not even go into the number of Muslim countries United States is happily drone – bombing.

And all this by Nobel peace prize with who never agreed to authorize the war in Iraq ( nor voted against it), and who did all this right after the Iraq war. Why?
Sara G. (New York, NY)
We've been bombing ISIS's strongholds and camps for months - among other tactics - with some decent success. Obama's forged excellent relationships with our European allies. Our police forces have been militarized. Obama got the job done with bin Laden. Others here have pointed out other tactics and the harsh realities of succeeding against an amorphous, wily enemy.

Ponderous? Given the evidence to the contrary, I think not.
blackmamba (IL)
The only hearts that European Christians care about are their own. Having sown the wind of Christian crusading invasion and occupation against Islam beginning in Iraq, Europe is reaping the whirlwind blowback.

Europe and it's American friend allied with extremist Sunni Muslim Arab tyrants who deny their people their divine equal certain unalienable rights. All based upon their quest for oil and gas and strategic geography. JFK once noted that denying any means for peaceful revolution insures violent revolution. Arab Muslims have no civil secular egalitarian plural democratic outlet.

Since 9/11/01, a mere 0.75% of Americans have volunteered to put on the military uniform of any American armed force. And they have been ground to emotional, mental and physical dust by multiple deployments in ethnic sectarian socioeconomic political educational civil wars that cannot be resolved by military means.

Europeans were heartless in their cheering for Israel's terrorist onslaught in Operation Protective Edge that left 550 Palestinian kids in Gaza dead. Millions of Arab, Kurdish, Turkish and Persians Muslims have been killed, wounded, displaced and made refugees by heartless Europeans.

Perhaps Mr.Cohen can lead Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Carson, Santorum, Jindal, Rubio, Christie, Gingrich, Giuliani, Limbaugh, Beck and Cheney againt ISIL. Hen Team 13 should scare them into capitulation without any spilt or wasted blood, sweat and tears.
scientella (Palo Alto)
This is the indirect result of the neo-cons persuasion of George Bush to fight the never ending Middle East War.

Obama wisely wants OUT. We have energy independence.

It is also the result of sheer mindboggling naivete of Angela Merkel. What was she expecting? Again Germany destroys Europe, this time from the left and to the same end, the personal aggrandisement of its leader at the expense of Europe.
Raj (Chennai)
what exactly is your prescription ? another ground war in the Middle East. with American boots on the ground ? And you can predict the consequences of that or how soon that would end ISIS? It's all well and good to criticize the President and say this is not working but if you don't propose an alternative , your views are quite useless
Ron (Princeton NJ)
I echo that. What do you propose?

The American people are facing many challenges; our treasury is exhausted. We face bleak options, and none of our so-called leaders (not Clinton, Sanders and any Republicans) is stepping up to tell our people that there are no easy choices here. We can give up our liberties, exhaust our treasury, and intrude into others' lands, meanwhile failing to address other needs at home.

I would bet the American people are in for a rude awakening, no matter who is our next president.
michael_lyle (United States)
Europe is attacked, and Richard Cohen asks: "Why doesn't the United States do more!?!" Here's an idea Richard: if ISIS really is such an existential threat to Europe, maybe that Western army you're so intent on sending to Iraq and Syria should be made up of European soldiers. Why are you demanding the US take sole responsibility for Europe's security?

And the question that you deride ("We can beat the Islamic State, but then what?") demands an answer, particularly if you're serious about sending in ground troops. Who will govern ISIS's territory after their beaten? Who will provide the forces to ensure security and stability? Who will provide the blood and treasure for this project? What if ISIS goes underground and mounts an insurgency (the leaders of ISIS cut their teeth in the Iraq insurgency against the US)? Sending in an army without good answers to these questions is the height of arrogance and irresponsibility, and I have yet to hear Richard Cohen (or anybody else) offer any answers to these questions.
Ron (Oregon)
There are not only the foreign policy questions of this mess and us getting involved, there are the real issues of us throwing our troops around over there. I have to assume that Cohen has at least glanced at a map of Syria and western Iraq. A lot of those places are very very far away from a friendly port or country. Maybe we could just force our way through Assad controlled western Syria, use Lebanon as a base of operations or perhaps Israel will let us access Syria through the Golan Heights. I ftankly can't see a down side to any of those options, and the amount of sense those options make dovetail nicely with the amount of sense Cohen makes in this column.
dkottsf (san francisco)
And what do you suggest?

You are always so quick to lay blame on Obama's policy in the Middle East, but you are never clear as to your preferred alternative.

So what do you suggest?

If you advocate a US led ground invasion of Syria - and presumably, the parts of Iraq under ISIL's control - say so, clearly. Advocate it. Support the idea with reasoned arguments. Persuade your readers; if you can.

But failing that, your insinuating attacks, on the president's policies, in the absence of concrete alternatives, are craven and dishonest. And beneath your usually fine work.
Karin (Colorado)
This whole situation reminds me of an abusive male-female relationship, in which the victim always blames herself. She "made" him do it, it wasn't his fault. He can't control his temper. She made him mad, she betrayed him, she cooked him the wrong meal, she didn't love him enough, whatever. The victim keeps making excuses. We didn't help them integrate enough, we attacked Iraq, we supported a dictator, etc.

Sadly, it usually ends in the death of the victim.
Alex (Chicago)
Why are we responsible for securing Europe's borders? Why can't the Turks seal off the border they have with ISIS controlled parts of Syria? Where is the European Army that should be preparing to invade Syria? Why are our soldiers always the ones everyone wants to see die in order to solve their own problems? Are we that big a nation of suckers?
DSM (Westfield)
The author offers no solution, except for seemingly favoring sending in large numbers of American troops--which is how ISIS and Al Qaeda got started in the first place and then fueled.

Unless the author can name one Middle East country where sending in American troops has been of overall benefit to the US, he should stick to watching March Madness, instead of suggesting madness in March.
Kelly P (New York)
Blaming Obama for his ISIS response is ridiculous, ISIS was created by the US Government intent on pre-emptive war, the world saw the crimes of the Bush Administration writ large and the mass murder or Iraqi's was the fuel for the fire that will rage for decades to come.

Every day Iraq and Syria live in constant death and destruction all because an idiot wanted to avenge his father and his Jeppetto wanted oil, infrastructure rebuild contracts, private armies and defense dollars to grow the coffers of his employer Halliburton.

Bush/Cheney gave us no defense on 9/11, inaction on Bin Laden, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, Secret Black sites, Torture, 5000 US dead, 300,000 Iraqi dead, so on and so on.... you want more Pre-emptive wars based on lies and you have the affront to call out Obama.

Please explain how Obama could have stopped San Bernadino where a lunatic shot his co-workers.

Or please say how you would stop ISIS, your idea is what , more troops on the ground, that is exactly how they ISIS was created half wit.
Phil (Brentwood)
"By raising again the easily conflated specter of migration, Islam and terror,.."

Well, they are connected. How many Muslims were in Brussels 20 years ago: Far fewer. How did so many get there: Migration from Muslim countries. Is it reasonable to fear Islamic terrorists: Well, how many countries fear Presbyterian or Episcopalian suicide bombers blowing up airports and subways?

The connection between migration, Islam and terror seems clear to me.
Jay U (Thibodaux, La)
Mr. Cohen, you are responding to this horrific event with near-hysteria--as you have done repeatedly before in similar situations. In your words, Daesh is a "global threat." Please reflect on your rhetoric here. Just what level of power are you attributing to Daesh? Unfortunately, this is going to be a long game. We can count on more of the barbaric same--even on our own soil. But Daesh has not the power to undermine western democracy--unless we give it to them. I, for one, am glad that cooler heads than yours are steering this ship.
Ken L (Atlanta)
Mr. Cohen generalizes a short-term observation into a broader problem, but he avoids getting to the root of the problem. In his view, today's attack means the strategy isn't working. And he proposes….nothing.

At the root of the problem are a few factors that no military strategy can address:

1. ISIS is based on a fanatical theocratic philosophy which translates to hatred for western (US and Europe) values.

2. The US and Europe are free societies, not police states. There is no way to prevent every possible fanatic from carrying out terrorist attacks on our soil. The best we can do, defensively, is to be vigilant through intelligence gathering that doesn't threaten our freedom and enforce the laws we have against conspiracy and possession of deadly weapons.

3. We can go on the offense, take the fight to ISIS territory, and temporarily disarm and disable the fanatics. We have to balance the risk with the temporary rewards.

However, 4: It is not possible to wipe out a theocratic philosophy militarily. That can only be done by the people living in that area, who refuse to accede to their demands who rebel and fight back against the philosophy. ISIS is not a sustainable entity when they have to enslave the local population to support them. People won't put up with that way of life forever. Our job, and that of all nations living under their threat, is to help people achieve a better way of life. Endless war serves no purpose.
Noam Sane (Harrisburg, PA)
If by "ponderous" you mean minimizing bloodshed by not involving American ground troops - if you mean more daughters get to grow up with their fathers, the VA hospitals become less crowded, we as a country don't put yet another war on the national credit card - then I'm with the President.

Patience is very difficult at a time like this. Patience is bitter, a man once said, but its fruit is sweet. We will prevail.
Geoff T (Camas, WA)
Roger, what do you propose the president do differently? Personally, I don't really see a solution, just more blood. And I'm tired of seeing young Americans subjected to death, dismemberment, and psychological trauma by sending them over to the middle east to fight their wars.
MIMA (heartsny)
And meanwhile down at the ranch, George W. Bush is happily serving BBQ.
M Philip Wid (Austin)
Why is it so difficult for Mr. Cohen to understand: We Americans are exhausted from nearly 15 years of military interventions in the Middle East. Our brave men and women have served honorably and with distinction. Now it is time for the rest of the civilized world to take on more of the burden. When that happens, we might be more receptive to your views, Mr. Cohen.
njglea (Seattle)
Yes, President Obama's strategy IS working, Mr. Cohen. The common criminal terrorists feel the net tightening and will ramp up efforts to spread hate, anger and fear before they are exterminated. No more war. If you want a fight so badly you may be our guest and go over to Europe or the middle east and volunteer.
Uzi Nogueira (Florianopolis, SC)
Roger Cohen " Syria, long regarded by the Obama administration as an intractable but parochial conflict, has proved the incubator of a global threat. From Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold in Syria, terror radiates."

The unanswered question is: Why does the Obama administration is still keen on to depose Assad from power?
edpoole3 (Charlotte)
The problems that can't be resolved through a large American military action:

1. The promotion for decades by the Saudis and Gulf states of Wahhabi Islam, imposing strict rules and thus breeding movements across the Middle East and north Africa for pure Islamic states, including the pursuit of violence to achieve their goals and sanctify themselves.
2. The impossibility of America to stand with either the Saudi Sunnis or the Iranian Shia without being caught in an ancient struggle.
3. The inability and unwillingness after half a century to achieve cultural integration within EU nations, much less sufficient absorption of Middle Eastern and African ethnic groups into European cultures (with the sharp exception to date of Britain - thanks to an inadvertent benefit of Empire).
4. The ISIS dream to confront the West, especially the Americans, on their grounds for an apocalyptic battle, where if we devastatingly defeat them in the short-term, we would likely promote a new breed of fantasists, idealists, and vengeance aimed again at America.

Obama is absolutely right that we have gotten in trouble by supporting nations that have allow its people to invest in fundamentalist groups. Militarily, supporting the Kurds (at the risk of problems with the Turks) is the only good bet right now. Brokering an ethnic partition of the rest of Syria, and only then enabling the Saudis, Kurds, and maybe Iran (probably wishful hopes) surrounding and erasing the current version of ISIS.
Cristobal Eduardo Linero (Portland)
Obama doesn't have time to eradicate ISIL. He is too busy campaigning to be the next President of Cuba.
DrPaul (Los Angeles)
The only way to motivate Arab Muslim countries to eliminate every Jihadist and sympathizer, they must be given a nonnegotiable choice. Either wipeout the radicals in their midst, starting immediately, or they will suffer a loss that is unimaginable to them upon the next mass casualty terrorist attack in the west. Namely, we will reduce Dome of the Rock to a Rock Pile. And if that is not motivation enough, let it be known that Medina and Mecca are next in line. Ground troops are not needed or desired. Just our air power and will to win, regardless of the cost to the 'religious' feelings of those who want to destroy western civilization.
Paul Kunz (Missouri)
Like many readers, Mr. Cohen, I am wondering how a military incursion or long term deployment end an ideology that is not state centered, but scattered in small pods. And especially on a specific timeframe. Do we want another Mission Accomplished catchphrase? These terrorists will not succumb to military interventions, as we have seen. Heck, we have our own terrorists in this country, killing more people than ISIS. They have an ideology, too...more guns. And obviously we can't stop them either. Obama's policies are not the issue. Some people do evil things regardless of where they live. And it is maddening and saddening.
Paula C. (Montana)
Oil. People are dying in these attacks because we cannot give up our thirst for oil. Saudi Arabia is not our friend or ally. It is our oil dealer and whatever price we or European nations are paying in blood is just fine with them to keep the violence out of their kingdom. Oil has as much of this blood on it as religion.
Jim C (Flagstaff, AZ)
You reach one conclusion that's correct: "There are no easy answers." Except, apparently, to blame President Obama. One wonders how removed you are from news reports to describe U.S. policy as a "ponderous wait-them-out approach." Do you not read about the continuing campaign of airstrikes? Even you recognize that ISIS has been losing ground. But do tell us, what would American ground troops (sent where, I wonder?) accomplish other than to "drag the United States into another Middle Eastern war and increase the appeal of the Islamic State"? One can convincingly argue that ISIS is the result of George W. Bush having done exactly that; it's hard to see any other consequence to such ill-considered action. But you're right in another way: the president has not said when victory will come. Of course, Presidents Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt didn't tell us that, either - can you name anyone so prescient? Or are you content merely to bash President Obama and wave the bloody flag of escalated and endless war?
Bill (Lansing)
Let's get a little perspective. These terrorist attacks are just that. They don't kill many. On the whole the numbers are tiny compared to the fatalities do to random gun violence, do to car accidents and even due to normal accidents, like falling off a ladder. To deal with this requires a well considered approach that eliminates Isis strongholds using local troops. Why local troops? It is because this is not a one time problem, and these local troops will have to remain vigilant over decades, which is something that the U.S. has never done in the face of terrorism. No party, not Republican, not Democrat has demonstrated the strength of will or determination to remain vigilant over decades. If it requires U.S. control of ISIS strongholds, it will not last.
Cogito (State of Mind)
Both Trump and Cruz seized the opportunity, have opened their mouths and issued garbage. Neither is fit to be dog catcher. Either of them is more dangerous to us than the Islamic State.
As far as what is to be done, "no easy answers" writes Mr. Cohen. Indeed.
Steve (Westchester)
ISIS and others like them have been decades in the making. They just needed a catalyst and that was the IRaq war which left many military men without jobs and power, but still left with bitterness, and military know-how.

This cannot end quickly. Kill Al Queda and ISIS pops up, Kill ISIS and someone else will pop up. How long will we spill the blood of our children and spend the treasure of our grandchildren?

The tyrannical governments of the Middle East need to be dismantled by the people, and then the religious governments need to be dismantled - without Western, Russian, or Chinese interference. Then the people will painfully create democracies of some kinds. This will be precipitated by reducing and then ending the worlds thirst for oil. Until that time we need to contain these groups.
Andrew (Denver, CO)
Unfortunately, Roger Cohen no longer has any business commenting on US military policy. Twenty years ago, he seemed to be a completely different person with an actual intellect. Now he is nothing but a shill for neoconservative insanity, and should be ignored.
dworlaw (manhattan)
So The Times joins in the push for action, and calls Obama's intelligent, controlled approach ponderous. Too bad you're bored, NY Times. I see no concrete proposal in this editorial, just a Trumponian knee jerk response to keep the rednecks happy. The application of care and intelligence is not capitulation.
Brandon Herrmann (Dallas)
The EU has a population and economy on par with our own. This is not America or the President's mess to fix. The Europeans need to take charge. It was their "capital" that was attacked today. For once, they can play the lead role.
Almighty Dollar (Michigan)
"Too high in my view"...Fine. Let Netanyahu and the fearsome Israeli Army take them on. Bebe is Cheney reincarnate and would rather welcome the fight. In the meantime, by all means start a draft, then we will accurately gage what Americans really think about losing family members to a ground war with ISIS.

Remember the Neo-cons, Cheney, Kristol, Wolfowitz, Bush, Rice and the others like Romney, Buchanan, Kerry and Edwards will have a grand total of zero children fighting. Will Chelsea Clinton's husband go fight? I think not. However, Mum wanted a Saddam take-out.

It's of so easy to take pot shots against Obama. How about a column inch or two to Cheney "they will greet us with flowers and chocolates" or Viceroy Bremer, shouting ala Trump (to a million man Sunni army) "You're fired!
Sparky (NY)
If there's one clarifying conclusion out of this latest act of horror, it's that the core cause of Islamist anger is a lot more than Israeli policy vis a vis the Palestinians. Europeans have lectured us over and over that if only the Israelis acted like, well, Western Europeans, the world would be at one.

Well, Belgium's government has generally been very sympathetic to the Arabs and the Palestinians in the dispute with Israel. And yet Sunni extremists went on a murder spree in the capital of the country.

Reflect on that for a long moment.
Max Schwartz (New York)
Interesting take on Obama's Middle East policy, offering no constructive solution to the obvious: if ISIS is a Sunni problem, which all seem to acknowledge, how does it get fixed without the Sunnis? And where do we find the Sunnis to fix it? When you solve that one, it will be time to go in and hit ISIS with everything we've got and support the Sunnis.
vlad (nyc)
this analysis is off on several points:

- people involved in yesterday's bloodbath are from the same cell that ran Paris attack. They attacked yesterday because cops were on their tails and this was likely their last chance to carry it out.
- Salah Abdeslam is a completely unimportant figure. He is the putz who failed to carry his mission and I'm a bit surprised they did not get rid of him because he was clearly a liability. The most important figure is the bomb cook, the guy that Belgians have not managed to identify.
- ISIS is an idea, an ideological movement and will not be destroyed by simply capturing Raqqa or any other specific territory. Their goal is to use asymmetrical warfare in foreseeable future, playing whack-a-mole game to economically disrupt and psychologically wear out much stronger enemy . Of course, given the plethora of idiocy shown by our politicians, they are not without their chances.
Peter S (Rochester, NY)
President Obama is not in charge of the world. He's a pretty smart fellow who has studied some US history. After not defeating the N. Koreans, after not defeating the N. Vietnamese, after not defeating The Iraqis in Gulf war 1, not defeating the Iraqis in Gulf war 2, after not defeating the Iranian Mullahs, after not defeating the Taliban, after not defeating Al Qaeda, you think you'd sort of figure something out. You can't prevent a small number of terrorists from inflicting pain and casualties on an open and free society, especially when they're on a one way mission. It can't be done.
Steve Mumford (NYC)
Why conflate the EU with battling terrorism? A huge centralized bureaucracy with open internal borders, a lazy approach to immigration/asylum and an unrealistic attitude towards Islam was the catalyst for infiltration in the first place.
When authority is removed from individual countries, responsibility becomes vague, diffused.

I'm afraid that on the issue of terrorism Trump may be right: time to limit Muslim immigration, especially in Europe.
Alan (Tampa)
The President is ensured by his own ideology. It is the wrong world view for our times. Perhaps it would have worked in the 1930's prior to WWII, but he seems unable to unlock himself mentally and face up to what is going on in the world. Some of this is probably due to his upbringing, but that should not be the whole answer. He is refusing to confront the threats the U.S. faces. If he were not a lame duck, he might be removed from office.
p_promet (New Hope MN)
I agree with Mr. Cohen--
Defeating ISIS on the battlefield is what America can and must do, to assist Europeans in their own war on terror. Only the US and Russia have the military might required to do so. President Obama needs to be more proactive in his role as Commander in Chief, as he was when the US eliminated Osama bin Laden.
But rooting terrorists out of local neighborhoods in Paris, Brussels and other European cities is a task Europeans must accomplish on their own. My recommendation for any nation including the US would be to seek assistance from Israel, when confronting terrorists at home.
Roy Brophy (Minneapolis, MN)
A Very high risk policy? Not rushing in blind like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Mr. Cohen, you always advocate more force and more killing and you have always been wrong since the invasion of Afghanistan.
Dave (<br/>)
Daesh's objective is not to destroy or conquer european cities. It is to provoke an invasion of "crusaders" into the middle east - where they will be trapped in an expensive quagmire and - in ten years time - will retreat after yet more loss of "blood and treasure". At which point Daesh claims yet another "victory" and its bombers and suicide squads continue their operations.

There seems to be an odd beleif that these guys can be easily rooted out of their societies. But the facts are that despite decades of brutal repression in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood survived and flourished and nothing has removed the taliban from Afghanistan or Al quada and its offshoots from Iraq. Even Iran - the poster boy of repressive regimes - is subject to regular terrorist attacks and is unable to completely subdue them. Meantime bombings and klllings in Baghdad are so common they just go unreported in the west.

And so what does mr Cohen recommend? Doing exactly what our mutual enemy (I am not american) wants us to do - which as any military person can tell you is not the smartest move in the playbook (and look what happened when W Bush did tha in Iraq).

All i can say is that its a good thing the US military isnt taking its orders from Mr Cohen. But it would be better if Mr Cohen used some common sense and ddint spread the message which our enemy wants spread. Mr Cohen has effectively joined the Daesh propaganda team.The NY times made the same mistake on Iraq, so thats unfortunate.
Radx28 (New York)

ISIS is only the first of many potential groups of "asymmetric warriors", aka gangs of crusaders, who may come together to use terror to opportunistically threaten virtually any open and free society at its core.

It's the "drug war" on steroids.........and ".....our mission, should we decide to accept it...." is to learn to defeat this new form of warfare without resorting to serial genocide, against each and every unhappy, and disenfranchized group of malcontents that his our radar.

Clearly, this world discontent, reflects the discontent that we're also seeing in the US itself during this election cycle. It is a result of the steady erosion of opportunity that's happening at the bottom of the economic ladder world wide.

This will only get worse, not better, as automation and robots continue to displace humans, and drive the concentration of wealth into the hands of capital rather than labor.

This is not a job for bombs. It's a job that requires intelligent people to find new and better ways to re-engineer economic opportunity around the world.

Republicans know how to 'milk things', and to tear down things that don't produce milk, but they stink at creating and building things. We need some builders.
Jair (New Orleans)
Roger: let's put a new threshold in place for punditry warmongering like this.

Would you send yourself or your child into Raaqa to avenge the Paris attacks? The answer is so easy when it's abstracted in a newspaper article. Think about my question and all those that have died (for what?) in Iraq and Afghanistan before you start advocating to send more of our brothers and sisters into harms way.
RR (San Francisco, CA)
So, why is Syria and ISIS primarily a US problem? Turkey, Western Europe and even the middle eastern countries are more directly impacted than the US, but Cohen believes US should step in and do the heavy-duty work because: (1) US should lead like it always has ... price for being a leader, (2) US is the only country that has the real capability to accomplish the goals. It is exactly this thinking that has led to a situation where US spends its treasure in life and limbs and $s that could be invested in the US, and yet gets no credit in the middle east and the larger world community, and, in fact, is seen as an aggressor. No, thank you, we should sit this one out till the world community comes together to deal with this global menace. Western Europe, especially, has taken the easy way out so far: let US battle the Islamic extremism while hoping to not ruffle the feathers of their muslim community. Perhaps the time has come to foster a partnership with the muslim community amongst them to battle the extremists?
Robert Eller (.)
ISIS is attacking in Europe precisely because ISIS is being stopped militarily in Iraq and Syria.

The more ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria, the more ISIS will attack in Europe and elsewhere.

This is ignorant, hysterical and irresponsible finger pointing, from someone who has been clamoring for a military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Robert Eller (.)
Here's what's actually happening in Brussels, and across Europe.

ISIS is recruiting in Europe, and ISIS' recruits are also remaining in Europe, not just going to fight in Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc.

Europe does not understand its own population. Just the way American political establishments don't understand their population.
Chris L (New York, NY)
4,491 US servicemen were killed in the Iraq war. 32,223 were wounded.

2,356 US servicemen were killed in the war in Afghanistan. 19,950 were wounded.

And countless others killed and maimed from other coalition nations. We should keep things in perspective.

I can't help but notice the irony of an article written the day of an attack, calling for war and citing the dangers of 'bellicose warnings', in the same breath.
Lorenzo (Austin, TX)
Nobody is suggesting that we ignore ISIS. Of course Mosul and Raqqa must be retaken, and ISIS's claim to be operating an actual state must be dispelled. But that's exactly what is already happening! Abandoning a successful military strategy in favor of a massive boots-on-the-ground invasion is a really, really bad idea.

Think of what is happening out in the desert. Organizing the weak Iraqi army and a patchwork of mutually suspicious militant groups, from the Kurds to the Iraqi Sunnis to the Syrian opposition, is incredibly hard, yet we are succeeding! Ramadi is retaken, Mosul is cut off, and many ISIS soldiers are reading the writing on the wall and deserting.

This doesn't make our eventual victory easy, and it doesn't prevent acts of terror like today's attacks on Brussels. There WILL be more casualties, perhaps on American soil. But ISIS is being crushed, without the sort of American ground presence that would only motivate the next ISIS-like group.

Obama's strategy is both far-sighted and effective. Stay the course!
Michael O'Dell (Alameda CA)
Mr. Cohen,

I disagree with your assessment of the impact of these attacks and your conclusion that the west’s approach “looks like capitulation.”

Your statement that European liberties and unity are threatened by ISIS grossly underestimate the character and resolve of Europeans. Yes, authoritarian nationalists / nativists will make hay should fear of future attacks grow, but EU leaders who wish to keep Europe unified will use these attacks to drive for increased security cooperation and stronger ties between countries.

Your implication that attacks by ISIS will tip the balance of power into the hands of populist leaders and lead to a Brexit overestimates their impact. Most Europeans and Americans are not so simple as to confuse the refugee crisis created by Bashar al-Assad with the threat of ISIS. Brits will vote their pocketbooks in June; ISIS will have little influence in that referendum.

Just because the US and European nations are not putting boots on the ground does not mean that they are taking a “wait-them-out” approach. The UK suffered the loss of over 3500 lives in sectarian violence for over 40 years. Boots on the ground did little to solve that problem and, instead, added fuel (and bodies) to the fire.

To conclude that Europe will fall apart and that we are capitulating is to accept the ISIS narrative and ignores the strength of our character and our ability to act effectively without resorting to brute force.
mark (NH)
Osama Bin Laudin gave a speech in 2004, which has been archived by Al Jazeera (link following), in which he emphasized Al Queda's strategy, "This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat . . . So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy."

And so it goes. This was the plan all along. America pulls back, or doesn't "lead" and we are "caving in." Republican candidates want to cut social programs and "strengthen the Armed Forces" against threats like Al Queda. We bomb Iraq and ignore Baltimore's public schools. Are we not falling into the trap set for us?
JFMacC (Lafayette, California)
Someone is funding ISIL. Find the source and go after them. After all, left to their own devices in Libya, the ISIL fighters are scrounging for food...
Jim Waddell (Columbus, OH)
Poor President Obama. Just when he's doing something important - like hobnobbing with Cuban autocrats - another terrorist event changes the narrative. When will ISIS get with the program?
Max Alexander (South Thomaston, Maine)
One obvious answer to the author's final question is that Raqqa is a city of 220,000 civilians while Tora Bora was a terrorist cave complex. It's not quite the same target, is it?
owen (columbia sc)
Raqqa is an ISIS sanctuary? how does mr Cohen prove this? he sounds similar to Ted Cruz - asserting that ISIS is a place that can be 'carpet bombed'.
Paul Otteson (NY)
Perspective matters! About the islamic state, you write, "...Obama’s slow-but-steady strategy ... is doing nothing to ... prevent it from killing Europeans," but this is tabloid hyperbole.

It remains bitterly true that several twisted humans are able to place themselves to wreak periodic, intense havoc. We must fight to stop them, and the fight is and has been on for a long time. To say too much more than this is to risk diminishing the more salient reality that billions of us live day to day in peace, and that terror remains a grievous but local, inconstant blight.
Mark (Providence, RI)
Mr. Cohen believes that the outcome in Syria could be different from the ones obtained in Iraq and Afghanistan. He fails to say how he "knows" this. I agree, Mr. Cohen, not counterattacking is hard when you've been hurt, but if you counterattack in the style of W. or the Donald, you add to the destruction, not limit it. Being an armchair hawk is easy. It's harder when you sit in the hot seat and your country's youth will die because of your decision. Or suffer with PTSD for the rest of their lives. Mr. Cohen, ISIS exists because W. and Rumsfeld and Cheney made a decision like the one you want Obama to make. If Obama listens to you, you want us to believe the same thing won't happen again? You've got to work a lot harder to convince me of that.
sonnel (Isla Vista, CA)
Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn claims that Iraq & Libya got worse after toppling their respective strongmen. The truth seems deeper than any shallow analysis cares to address... with tiny resources and strong, committed organization, microscopic groups like ISIS can create havoc.

And the more xenophobic the West gets, most likely, the less we become able to truly understand and influence groups like ISIS.

The Irish IRA and the Basques carried on for an awfully long time, right on the soil of western European democracies. Given that ISIS is far away and much more foreign than those groups, well, these horrors will go on for an even longer time.
Melvin (SF)
Rather than going to war, wouldn't it cheaper and more effective to prevent foreign Jihadists from entering this country?
For example: recently an Egyptian flight student was arrested for making terrorist threats (against Trump, go figure). Can't we redefine our visa requirements to deny entry to guys like this?
Egyptian flight student? Come on. This should be a no-brainer.
JD (Ohio)
This bomb attack shows how stupid the Obama administration's response to San Bernardino was when it sought stricter gun controls. Maybe, it will now suggest that the sale of nails be strictly regulated. If the California terrorists didn't have guns, they would have used bombs.

Peter L Ruden (Savannah, GA)
A poorly thought out piece all around. So how it is Obama's fault that Belgium allowed a terrorist cell to almost blatantly exist in its city? Somehow American infantry on the ground will prevent a couple of suicide bombers from blowing up themselves and others in Europe? Nonsense Mr. Cohen. In fact, it is because ISIS is losing in Syria and Iraq that they are attacking in Europe and recruiting in the USA. The idea that American soldiers should be sent over again to stop individual or small cells of terrorists operating abroad is simply muddled thinking.
Nancy (Great Neck)
President Obama has taken the right approach, which is to gradually corner and eliminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I only wish that Obama had worked closely with Russia in Syria, and that could still be a path taken if we were to dismiss the idea of Syrian regime change which is self-defeating in any case.
David Koppett (San Jose, CA)
Mr. Cohen cites President Obama's point that a military invasion of ISIS territory would lead to a dead end, but he doesn't answer it.

Over a decade ago, we were told that invading Iraq would help eliminate terrorism. Many of us feared that the vacuum left behind would be even worse than what currently existed. Now we're faced with ISIS, the even-more horrific product of that vacuum.

Although less immediately satisfying to the bellicose than invasion, containment, selective military engagement, security cooperation and diplomacy are the only plausible solutions to an extremely serious problem we helped create.
lydgate (Virginia)
The murder of roughly 175 innocents in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels, over a period of several months, is terrible, but hardly demonstrates that Obama's strategy is a failure. Nor would a wild, all-out assault on ISIS somehow end the threat of such terrorist attacks. And the proper response to demagogues like Trump is to point out the disproportionate amount of time and money we spend in defending ourselves against ISIS and other foreign terrorist groups, when the much greater danger to Americans comes from our lax gun laws, lack of universally affordable health care, and woefully inadequate social safety net.
Aaron (Portland, OR)
While obviously more must be done, the US can't always be Europe's guard dog. I read your article as blaming Obama for this attack, and that's unjust. Europe has military strength that can also be brought to bear against ISIS. At the end of the day, Obama's reaction has been proportionate to the threat that ISIS poses to the US. Plainly, Europe, with its shockingly negligent failure to integrate its Muslim citizens and residents into society, faces an even larger threat, and Europe's response will need to reflect that threat. The US, reflecting its longstanding cross-Atlantic friendships and alliances and military capabilities, can and should be a part of that response. But at the end of the day, the US can't be the world's policeman - we tried that and it didn't work.
will (denver)
I don't understand why the media is so obsessed with Europeans being killed while ISIS massacres tens of thousands of Syrian Christians.
Concerned Citizen (Boston)
Mr. Cohen applauded the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which created ISIS.

Where are his analytical efforts on why this was wrong?

One can always put words on a screen, but one cannot always hope to be taken seriously.
binaslice (calgary)
I see that Mr Obama no longer calls them the Junior Varsity team. Unfortunately, his weak foreign policy, red lines et al, has actually allowed these terror groups to fester and grow. Good luck America!
German by heritage (Ohio USA)
"The question raised most urgently by the Brussels attacks, so soon after Paris, is whether and why Raqqa can be tolerated when Al Qaeda’s Tora Bora sanctuary in Afghanistan was not. " The answer here is Russia is the reason, as they continue to meddle in the business of Syria. A ugly as it may be to this president, we have to develop a coalition with Russia to make this happen. Now.
W. Ogilvie (Out West)
Thank you for identifying the issue not as an intellectual argument but an existential threat. Ms. Clinton said the terrorists were trying to destroy the foundations of a democratic society. She must realize that in reality the terrorists are trying to murder people. Bush's over reaction in Iraq is not a rationale for diffidence today.
Larry Hedrick (DC)
Recently, Mr. Cohen has been indefatigable in blaming President Obama for every act of terrorism that demands the world's attention. I am getting very weary of his obsessiveness, and would therefore like to address Mr. Cohen directly:

Roger, please remember to recall that you are not privy to the top secret briefings that Mr. Obama is constantly receiving. As I perceive your response to the present crisis, you are writing more out of prejudice than information, more out of panic than reason.

I hate to make this observation, but you are beginning to remind me of Donald Trump.

Your most recent statement--this one--strikes me as ill-timed at best and opportunist at worst. Cannot you let us have a little peace in which to digest these latest blows to Western civilization, or do you feel called upon by God to nag us when our grief is at its peak.

I wish that you would compose yourself and show a little more decency. No one is forcing you to spend every minute of your life jabbing at us with your pointed remarks. You are just not that important. These problems will be resolved by cooler heads than yours, but (and I am sorry to disappoint you with this observation), it's going to take time.
sf (sf)
Not one single American soldier should be deployed to fight for another ME country. Not while the able bodied, young men from those ME countries sit in Europe's cafes sipping coffee or drinking lager. Why should we fight their wars anymore at the expense of our taxpayers and the lives of their children?
As the Brits like to say, rubbish.
marcus (USA)
Apparently the murders in Belgium weren't enough to interrupt the president's excellent self important adventure in Cuba. Mr Cohen is right, the president has been slow to react and ISIS will continue to inflict death on the middle east, Europe and the US. It took the murder of 130 people in Paris to get the West to respond but it hasn't been enough. The US is next and the president gives us cliches. Obama's mid east policy is every bit as disastrous as his predecessor from pulling the troops from Iraq to throwing up his hands about ISIS to his red line in Syria to throwing Mubarek, Khadafi and Israel under the bus only to lift all sanctions on Iran for promises from the ayatollahs while Syria and Russia consolidate their hold on power The war of extremist Islam against the West has been going on for nearly three decades but it appears that Obama just isn't that concerned.
David Gold (Palo Alto)
Is Mr Cohen still pining after another war? Protecting Europe is not our job. They are all pretty grown up now. It is not for the US to lead Europe on their own territory. We can only give any help when asked, not decide what is best of Europe.
DHunt (Indiana)
Comparing the isolated mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan with the areas of Syria (and Iraq) that are heavily populated with civilians literally trapped by ISIL/ISIS is way off base, as is Mr. Cohen's fear-mongering. Mr Cohen needs to take some time off.
Cfiverson (Cincinnati)
Mr. Cohen seems to assume that a ground war will be a short, low-cost event. Based on what evidence - our stunning record of success in Middle Eastern ground wars over the past 15 years?

The civilian casualties suffered in the ISIS attacks are hideous and tragic. Would be the result from another major war?
David Gates (Princeton)
It always amazes me when the right wing blames the existence of ISIS on Obama. Maybe the neo-cons could stand up and take responsibility for the havoc they reeked upon Iraq and acknowledge they started this infernal middle-east war.

Never mind, it must be Obama's fault.
Donald (Yonkers)
Speaking of Islamist terror, where was Obama and Roger Cohen a week ago when over 100 people including 20 children were slaughtered?

Well, Obama has been supporting the Saudi war and Roger has been too busy urging us to get into more wars to pay any attention to the war crimes we are supporting now.
Jesus Calderon (NJ)
It's horrible when innocent people are murdered from the violence between the "civilized and barbaric" forces; each side emboldening and radicalizing the other to take up arms and kill their enemy for their moral/legitimate causes. It's very circular.

I wonder if the survivors of drone attacks or military interventions who lost their children, parents, siblings, grandparents and friends feel the same way we feel when we are attacked in our homes? Angry, sad, outraged? I can only imagine the fear they live in wondering as they look in the sky when the next drone strike or military raid will happen.
adrian reynolds (Santa Monica, CA)
Roger Cohen: easy for you to say. Do you have a son, a nephew, a daughter you want to enlist?
gnowxela (NJ)
Mr. Cohen. I’m sure you recall that Britain lost 20,000 on the first day of The Somme and didn’t bat an eye. And then lived through 40,000 dead in the 8 months of the Blitz. And now 30 dead portends the fall of Europe unless we lash out rashly? Where did your stiff upper lip go? Yes, I do understand that every life means more today. But since neither you nor I nor anyone else can offer a better, well thought out alternative, perhaps you should take the lead of our President: Keep Calm and Carry On.
Duane McPherson (Groveland, NY)
Cohen delivers the usual reactionary rant: Let's blame it all on Obama.

And Cohen's alternative is: What? He puts forward absolutely Nothing.

So I will fill in that empty space for him: the correct response is old-fashioned police work. Feet on the ground, ears at the listening posts. When a group of conspirators is involved, word leaks out and word gets around. It's not rocket science. And it definitely doesn't involve military action.

Oh, and by the way, we suffer more many more deaths in America from right-wing violence than from Muslim-connected violence.

And while we're at it, could we please stop talking about waging a war against Terrorism? Terror is a tactic, not an ideology. You might as well wage a war against cluster bombs. Oh, I forgot, that's OUR tactic.
Bob Connors (Colorado)
President Obama should have gone to war in Syria and none of this would have happened. Does that about sum it up, Mr. Cohen? What a preposterous column from an otherwise thoughtful man.
Lila (Bahrain)
I read your article Mr Cohen and well, where should be bomb, who should we bomb, what should we bomb, how many troops to send, how much will it cost in money and in lives. Have you anything concrete to add other than say that this is the fault of Obama's "ponderous" policy? Should the west support the Kurds - and damn what the Turks have to say about that?

I don't believe that defeating ISIS is possible until muslims themselves reject it.

All these calls for action, action. Any sort of action but some action!

I'm reminded of these few lines in Rudyard Kipling's poem IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too ....
D.A.Oh (Middle America)
My feeling is that when the world has had enough of these Daesh misanthropes, the world will do something about them.
The USA will help, but it's time for everyone to commit -- not just us -- to getting rid of this enemy that's common to all nations.
TDOhio (OH)
Capitulation? Roger Cohen, a proponent of the Iraq War, is as much a demagogue as Donald Trump. His attack on Obama shows all the class of Bibi Netanyahu railing against the President of the United States on the floor of Congress. Apparently Cohen has mind-melded with Judith Miller. Like Ms. Miller, Cohen is another embarrassment to the New York Times.
Doug Piranha (Washington, DC)
Cohen may be right that President Obama's strategy isn't sufficiently aggressive to adequately protect Europeans. But what is stopping Europeans themselves from being more aggressive?

It certainly isn't President Obama preventing the EU from sending thousands of ground troops -- European men and women -- from going into Iraq/Syria and destroying ISIS.

Would it just be too déclassé for Cohen to mention this, given how some Europeans regard the warmongering United States? It might be time for Europe to do some warmongering of its own.
Jim Hugenschmidt (Asheville NC)
This is the latest in a series by Mr. Cohen, all with the same message. I've been waiting for his essay on the specifics of what actions he would recommend together with his reasoning. Without this, he's shooting blanks at this point.
gubo (San Diego, CA)
Obama is not responsible for every citizen in every Western and non-Western country. His priority is America and he should be judged by casualties in the US alone.

Considering how the Europeans were not the primary target during the Bush and Obama years, they may not be ready for US intervention and assistance on their home soil. Therefore, all the tools and experience the US has gained since 9/11 is not being used effectively in Europe.
ross (nyc)
I actually miss Bush!
VV (Boston)
When evil things happen anyplace on the glove is it somehow Obama's (and the US's) responsibility? Is there an assumption that we are all-powerful? Shall we fight another war in another Mideast country? And then what?
Susan Piper (<br/>)
So, if it's not working what should we be doing instead?
muezzin (Vernal, UT)
Obama's foreign policy - cautious, some may say timid to the extreme - has been a disaster. There is no reason to suspect that he will or can, change. All we can hope for is the changing of the guards.
Morgan (Medford NY)
Thirty to forty died in Europe, on average ninety people die in America from firearms, where is the breaking news, the headlines,the outrage, the sorrow, of course for the deaths in Europe are an immense tragedy for all concerned, but we seem to accept this daily tragedy as an acceptable fact of life in America, over 33,000 gun deaths in America in 2015, In the last four years there have been more gun deaths in America than the combined deaths of Americans, in the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars in total, source US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, gun deaths in America more than 120,000 in the last four years WAKE UP WAKE UP.
Longo (San Francisco)
Cohen has a point, ISIS (or the more formal name Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah fe Al-Iraq wa Al-Sham) by accepting responsibility in this terror attack, have effectively declared war on Belgium and NATO. They do this to show to their potential recruits that Europe has lost the will to defend herself. This should give you pause.
ambAZ (phoenix)
Your argument lies on a giant assumption, that there is but one outcome by sending in troops to defeat ISIS. We have tried that, Mr. Cohen . . . both directly and indirectly and the results have not been promising. As you well know, ISIS is setting themselves up in several of the nations in which we had ground troops and long wars and moderate outcomes.

Additionally, you seem to fail to recall that the quagmire of nations states that have ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan were inherited from more 'aggressive' administrations. However, Obama has killed more terrorists than his predecessor had.
Basanta Sapkota (Nepal)
Major powers have to work to destroy the ideological brand of terrorism. Killing people never justifies right, here might makes right. It is against humanity not only western or Europe. No negotiation has to be done with this ISIS. The world has to be united in destroying it from the root.
Tim Holmes (United States)
Not tolerating Tora Bora did not stop the killing of 192 Spaniards and the injuring of over 1,800 others on Madrid subways in March of 2004.

Having troops in Afghanistan (14 years and running) has not eliminated the Taliban nor Al Qaeda (and now ISIS). We can suppress them, make them less effective, but a long term solution has to come from the people of the Islamic faith.

As far as San Bernardino, a man born in Illinois along with his Saudi born wife shoot people at his workplace. Not supported or planned by ISIS, in sympathy with. Not much different that the Charleston church shootings that was done in sympathy with white supremacists.

Sadly, some things will happen no matter what we do. Trying to judge our efforts in the hours after such an attach is not objective.
Adam (New York)
Does Cohen know how to uproot ISIS without merely setting the stage for another jihadist movement to take over? Of course not. And yet he blames Obama for taking too long to destroy ISIS, as though Syria could be turned into "a beacon of democracy" if Obama just gave some order, the details of which Cohen cannot say.

Cohen's fixation on Obama's supposed responsibility for the existence of ISIS is curious. Cohen does not mention that Congress has yet to declare war on ISIS. He even has the audacity to blame Obama for the rise of Trump!

Trump offers nothing but the fantasy that bluster, torture, indiscriminate bombing and maybe an invasion or two will solve all our problems once and for all. A responsible leader must consider the consequences of his fateful decisions and determine what course of action is in the long-term best interests of the country. Cohen's repeated attacks on Obama regarding the Syrian crisis betray a certain Trumpism in his thought. I'm happy and proud that we currently have a president who's responsible enough to reject such fantastical thinking. I do worry about what will happen when the next president is sworn in though, and I sincerely hope that she will reject such fantastical thinking as well.
Jon DePreter (Florida)
Brussels is attacked and Obama is to blame? It takes some pretty twisted and prejudiced thinking to make that arguement with a straight face.
Joan (Wisconsin)
I totally disagree with you, Mr. Cohen. I am so grateful that President Obama is our president. He has worked many miracles with the help of lots of intelligent supporters despite the outrageous attempts by the Republicans to destroy him.
wingate (san francisco)
Ok so the comments are do nothing. Not a surprise from the intellectuals / east west coast mentality and from a President who leads from behind. That same sort of non reasoning was responsible when Hitler took his first steps and we all know what that resulted in.
viable system (Maine)
I think Stanley McChrystal summed it up the relevant strategy as one of out-terrorizing the terrorists.

Unfortunately it took a series of crises to implement the strategy then, and will take a series of crises to catalyze the West et al. to adapt successfully to this new war on the West.

Where leaders emerge to take this on is yet to be seen. Most readers seem to view that this cannot be President Obama's primary responsibility, but lies within the European and Middle East communities.

ISIS attacks could - should - be a catalyst for European unified resistance, just the opposite of what some pundits and other observers have predicted.
Paul (Seattle)
I thought we had finally learned that Bushism doesn't work. Seriously Mr. Cohen, why is it Obama's and our sole responsibility? Would you have the U.S.and its allies just carpet bomb the "caliphate"? Get rid of them all perhaps?

I also find incredulous your assertion that Belgium "permitted" jihadists (terrorists) to live in their country, as if they blindly accepted known terrorists to live in their country. It's as if you are saying that they got what they deserved. When will you and others like you realize that you cannot fight an infectious idealogy (disease) with the same old reactionary strategies? We will end up with the same endless quagmire in which we are already involved in two other regions. Enough is enough.
Shiveh (California)
We have been forcing our will on Middle Eastern people for over a century by invading them, redrawing their maps, and misappropriating their natural wealth. We have only increased the pressure since the attack on WTC. We can still multiply the force and destroy much of what remains. But it won't solve our terrorism problem- history proves that it will exacerbate it. So, let the new approach a little time to work, and stop the foolish desire to interfere with every aspect of their societies. Every time we tried to change a ruler or appoint one, we destroyed a delicate balance and made the land more volatile. You can't expect a different result when advocating more of the same.
c harris (Rock Hill SC)
The story is much more complicated than is related. President Obama cannot change the hearts and minds of these people. Cohen's prescriptions are vague and would probably cause more harm than good. Just the other day I read that John Kerry wanted to launch cruise missiles at Assad targets. Hillary Clinton wants to challenge the Russians with a no fly zone. Just the other day Cohen was complaining that Obama wasn't doing enough to overthrow Assad. Thankfully the Pentagon has advised Obama against these interventions. The situation is a mass of confusion. What is needed is better intelligence and police work in Belgium and France.
PS (Vancouver, Canada)
Fascinating. Mr. Cohen, pray tell what expertise do you posses that you have the answers or solution. Your views border on the naïve or do you really think that Obama or any US president or anyone can simply wave a magic wand, and, presto, problem solved. There are limits to power. What you propose are magic bean solutions. Terror, the roots of terror, are not so black and white . . .
St. Paulite (St. Paul, MN)
So what, exactly, do you suggest? It is so easy to criticize. Do you want yet another war? (Did the U.K., after the numerous
terrorist attacks by the IRA, start a war against Ireland? Did Canada, after the attacks of the Front de la Liberation Québecoise, initiate attacks against the province of Québec?)
Be reasonable, as our President has to be. Not every act of terrorism has to be followed by an exaggerated "shock and awe"-type response, sacrificing blood and treasure, and leading to such chaos in Iraq, and ultimately to the rise of ISIS.
Robert Eller (.)
There is no "solution" to ISIS. There are only trade offs.

If the West wants to decrease (not eliminate!) the threat of ISIS in the West, a military "solution" in the Middle East is not answer. A military "solution" in the Middle East will only increase terrorism in the West.

No. The West should pull out of the Middle East and all Muslim countries completely. The West should leave those in the Middle East (I mean everyone in the Middle East, Mr. Cohen.) to solve their problems among themselves. If they cannot solve their problems among themselves, let them live, or not live, with their problems.

The West should apply its entire resource pool to integrating existing populations as completely as possible. ISIS influence in the West can only be countered in the West, period.

The West cannot, will not, and never should have attempted to, solve any of the West's problems in the Middle East. Europeans who insist on living as Europeans have no more business trying to live in the Middle East, than Middle Easterners who wish to live as Middle Easterners have any business trying to live in Europe. I am not talking about religion, per se. I am talking about civic norms.

Those who want to live as Europeans can do so in Europe. Those Europeans who want Europe to remain European can work to integrate their extant populations into European civic norms. Immigrants to the West must live as Westerners.

Only in this way will ISIS be mitigated in the West. That is all the West can do.
David Jervis (Poland)
One of the reasons for the emergence of the Islamic State is American policy in Iraq after 2003. How will sending infantry back to the region defeat IS, when the presence of infantry in the region was one of the causes of emergence of IS? Do we really think we can do it 'right' next time?
Rob (Riverside, CA)
Is Obama uniquely responsible? Where is European leadership? Another massacre, another round of outrage from the usual voices. Another round of commitments to "war" (Hollande), promises to destroy ISIS (chorus), admonitions to not forfeit freedom and tolerance (progressive politicians in "the West") and... then another massacre. The driving force fueling the terrorists has gathered strength over many generations of colonialism, humiliation and exploitation. Generations will pass before the force is spent.
Sophia (chicago)
Wow. This is not on Obama. If anything, ISIS is a result of Iraq followed by the civil war in Syria. Restraint and reluctance to ramp up a military assault didn't cause this - but rather the opposite.

Since WWI, when Britain overthrew the Ottoman Empire with Arab help, when the "Arab nation" was promised freedom and self-determination, Western meddling and deception has done nothing to promote East-West understanding let alone a blossoming of progress and freedom in the Middle East. The war wasn't even over before the double dealing began. The French decided they wanted new colonies in the Middle East, the Brits betrayed the Hashemites. Lawrence of Arabia was so ashamed of this betrayal of the Arabs that he refused to use the name by which he'd become world-renowned, and re-enlisted in the army as a private.

Alas, few other Westerners have had a finely tuned conscience let alone even a modicum of empathy for the Arabs or for Islam in general. Our games in Afghanistan may have been aimed at the Soviet Union but they've shot an arrow straight into our own heart.

Please, Mr. Cohen - this is a war that will only be won with ideas - ideas and common sense plans to combat the economic and environmental issues that are exacerbating an already difficult situation.
MJR (Long Beach, CA)
So, Mr. Cohen, you have no proposal, no remedy. It's remarkable that Sadam Hussein, Omar Kadafi and Hafez Al Assad used to be able to keep a lid on these guys. Guessing our regime change in Iraq and calling for an Arab Spring let a cat out. Some, such as Colin Powell urged restraint.

Short of going all in again, the U.S. and Europe will have to improve security and intrude on people's privacy, i.e. a dirty fight is going to be waged and the West will win. And the west will need the help of the likes of Apple and informants inside the Islamic community. There will be casualties in the U.S. and Europe no doubt.

Preach a little resilience, Mr. Cohen.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan)
Bearing in mind that President Obama has stated that he is proud of his Syrian policy, that he considers it "liberation" (from former US inefficient policy), it is unlikely that the Obama administration will accept Mr. Cohen's logic, i.e. Raqqa should get the same treatment as Tora Bora.

It is also unlikely that the Obama administration will agree with Mr. Cohen that the do nothing approach, what Mr. Cohen politely calls "the West's ponderous wait-them-out approach", looks like capitulation to the caliphate.

As long as Mr. Obama thinks that the coalition is "getting the job done", then expect more of the same: more ISIS in the Middle East and outside of the Middle East.

"They also serve who only stand and wait" works only in a sonnet and not in real life facing ISIS. In real life it is capitulation.
JohnP (Watsonville, CA)
Something that is almost never contemplated is withdrawal, like Nixon was hero, we should unilaterally declare an end to the war on terror. When we ended our criminal war on South-East Asia communism went into decline. No one remembers the people who predicted that this "war" would only make things worse and breed more radicals. Maybe we should give peace a chance.
Mike M. (San Jose, CA)
It is amazing that Roger refuses to see the Syrian catastrophe as the result of a proxy war between reactionary regional Muslim powers. The main reason why Isis controls a good portion of Syria today is because the West allied itself with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to get rid of the secular dictator Assad. The world has belatedly recognized that the Islamic terrorists, including Isis, are way more dangerous than Assad. What the west should do now is to stabilize Syria with the help of Russia with the understanding that Iranian intervention in Syria must also stop. Historically, American mistakes in the Middle East, helping the rise of political Islam is the root cause of most of today's problems.
Gwbear (Florida)
This is a WORLD Problem. Why is it that yet again, the US is the one who is asked to do the heavy lifting? This is always the *informed editorial response* - it should not be.

The mostly Muslim nations are still largely standing by, or putting in only a token effort at fighting ISIS. They see it as a victory if ISIS does not spread to their borders. As long as this is not a huge international campaign largely spearheaded by the UN, there is nothing in it for the US to yet again be the "Evil Policeman of the Mideast." We all know that even if we are successful, we will not get the thanks of the Muslim nations we indirectly saved. Their citizens will sit in their local cafes and curse us, while their leaders reap the rewards.

Trump... well the very fact that Trump exists will make his infinitely harder for us to do this with any kind of moral authority. Trump's discriminatory, bellicose Anti-Muslim pronouncements effectively undo years of US reassurances that we are not at war with Islam. Trump and his followers proudly *are* at war with the Muslim world, and don't care who knows it. The "Trump Doctrine " will make us a rogue nation.

Obama is very aware of the military limitations of the US here - apparently one of the very few that does. This is not something the world is collectively ready to take a unified response on. Until then, this is simply not ours alone to do.

Sadly, we have enough problems trying to keep Trump away from the US military, and its nukes....
Rob Crawford (Talloires, France)
As a European, I can say that yes, we feel fear. What I wonder is what ISIS could possibly be hoping to accomplish. Simple expression of rage? Sowing hate between peoples? It certainly won't cow the West into allowing them a free hand in Europe or the Middle East.
SF in SF (San Francisco)
Mr. Cohen, would you please get over your Obama-Middle-East obsession? Europe is the "Old World," remember? We are not their caretakers. Belgium has tracked hundreds of its citizens leaving to join ISIS and then returning (which is a crime in Belgium), and it has prosecuted next to no one. Remember the Dutch at Srebrenica? All these European nations are content to skimp on training, preparedness, defense. The entire European Union's military budget is $200B; we spend that much by April. This is a horrible situation, but it largely of their own making. Our moral obligation is to support and help defeat terrorism, but the Europeans have to take charge.
Carl Anderson (Oakland, CA)
The opponent of ISIS with the most boots on the ground is Bashar al-Assad's regime. The logical result of Roger Cohen's viewpoint would be to have the US become an ally of Bashar al-Assad. Cohen doesn't mention that name, but that's what a heavy-military anti-ISIS campaign would require -- unless he proposes an even bigger war, attacking both ISIS and al-Assad at the same time.
Mati (PDX)
In the United States, Islamic State terror also plays into the hands of demagogues, chief among them Donald Trump... Exactly. let's get rid of the demagogues so you can go hug a suicide bomber and straighten him him the error of his ways with you deep insight and compassion. (Make sure you hold his hand so the detonator does not engage).
True Freedom (Grand Haven, MI)
The Islamic State militant group seems to be ingrained in certain communities around the world today and because of this they have more support which keeps them going even if they never had jobs to provide for themselves. Their families and friends make up their support base and herein lies the real problem. The family structures are as guilty as the ISIS murderers themselves. They have taken the same closed knit community controlled approach as the Nazis did in WWII and are just as bad. As a result, many of them are controlled criminals and have nowhere else to go. So maybe we need to take a different approach when having to deal with this group. Here are three viable options: First, recommend a suicide option where they will, before taking their own lives in a safe area, be able to broadcast to the world what they think this world needs to hear. Second, maybe we could build a number of new coliseums where they could be placed and given the opportunity to kill other members of similarly violent groups and never let out alive. Third, and most important, would be the option to change the laws in the applicable nations where the members of their families can be charged as accessories to the murders they commit and also have the death sentence laws changed to where these members would be removed from the very societies which currently support them. None of these seem to be very forgiving but do we have a choice?
Tullymd (Bloomington, Vt)
Europe has imported terrorists and tolerates nests of them such as the Begian area where police are afraid to go. They tolerate a back and forth from Europe to Syria a mindboggling exercise in self- destruction,
They brought devastation on themselves. Tis a pity.
Dan Weber (Anchorage, Alaska)
Geo. Dubya Bush's war on terror after 9/11 was such a complete solution to the problem that we oughta just do it again, eh, Cohen? When "terror" strikes here, let's hit it there, not because that actually protects anybody, but because we can shock and awe everybody. I can't believe we're still thinking in this magical way. Well, yes I can, when I consider that the Republican party is now led by Donald John Trump.
Jbarber873 (Newtown, Ct)
Oh yes. Let's blame Obama. Let's double down on the Bush war. It's always bombs with you. How's that working so far?
Valerie Hanssens (Philadelphia, PA)
Come on Cohan, you think the war isn't being won fast enough?

If European nations are so threatened there's nothing stopping them from stepping up military operations against ISIS themselves. The US led coalition will eventually push ISIS out with minimal American loss of life in another year or two. After this whole ISIS thing blows over the US should pull out of the mid east for good. Then it will be someone else's problem.
Norman Dale (Canada)
When I read the opening words clearly linking the devastating attacks in Brussels to Obama, I scrolled quickly and with keen anticipation down through the article, sure that I was going to find "the answer" to heading off such attacks in the future. What a (non) surprise that I found nothing at all promising. Fact is that even an order of magnitude fewer Islamic youths willing to commit such acts would have pretty well no effect on the incidence of relatively well-planned slaughter.
arbitrot (Paris)
Roger, how to say this? But you are part of the problem.

Without in any way being dismissive, there you are, Roger, weighing 30 European lives in the balance against the literally thousands of women and children, not to mention a few good men, who would be killed in an all out attack on the Islamic State, with nothing to put in place the morning after except another occupation.

This was the "strategy" that caused more than 100,000 Iraqis to "buy the farm," as the expression goes, because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney thought it necessary to "bring 'em on."

No, not even that, but to go Daddy one better in a desert operation.

Think about it Roger. All life is sacred to be sure. But European lives are not any more sacred than nameless people in the Middle East who have a better chance at surviving as a function of a slow but sure strangulation strategy, rather than carper bombing which will make Ted Cruz and Fox News leap up in joy.

As long as they don't have to be around to sweep up the collateral damage.
raduray (Worcester)
Why put this at Obama's feet? Why is the US obliged to defend Europe when they refuse, not just fail, to defend themselves. Obama is right when he accuses our "allies" of coming along for the ride. What percentage of their GDP do they spend on defense? It's a pittance compared to what we spend. And yet, this is seen as an American failure. It's not. It's a European failure.
James Mignola (New Jersey)
The 'ponderous effect' of Obama's policy (whether these words were the choice of his editors or his own I dislike the disparagement) may have served better in the neo-con rush to war in Iraq and the fallout from that displacement of a balance or containment of power, but that is some very bloody water under the bridge. However, that ponderous approach still serves here. Without a clear, well thought out, and potent strategy to combat ISIS, I don't know that there is a way forward. And, that strategy is certainly not about glowing sands and crescent patches but, as cliched as it sounds it's still about winning hearts and minds in combination with strong military, police, intelligence and economic (both sanctions and enabling/stick and carrot) action. But the carrot has to be more than a reward; it needs to be enabling. It has to lead to less disenfranchisement, less unemployment, less despair. It has to lead to a path forward for people who just might not follow the path to hate...Okay, I find I'm starting to preach
slightlycrazy (northern california)
raqqa is full of civilians. there is no use eradicating a handful of terrorists if you kill thousands of civilians, i.e., by doing their work for them.
Ron D. White (Denver)
It is difficult to understand why history is significantly omitted.

Europe was involved in drawing mideast national boundaries aka colonialism. It is a long, long way from treating, say, Greece as something other than a nation and a people to be under control of someone else. It can be done by economic forces.

Let's stop ignoring The Mask of Command by John Keegan and Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan and think about why Keynes walked out and went back to London.

How long would you say it is that we have needed a new Marshall Plan?
MJ (Northern California)
Mr. Cohen: What exactly do you propose for Mr. Obama to do?

It's easy to beat the drum of criticism, but I have yet to see you offer any alternatives that are viable.
Lorraine M (Buffalo, NY)
"...their toll in blood and treasure." The easy answer? Cut off American aid to the ME. Just cut it off. But I suspect the real treasure flow is coming FROM those countries into certain American pockets. Which means there is blood on certain very wealthy hands. But that's always the way, isn't it? Follow the money.
Jonathan Baker (NYC)
U.S. military intervention in the mid-East is a proved failure at every turn.

Please instruct us, Mr. Cohen, what the winning military tactic is. Evasion into silence on this matter is unacceptable. You have your bully pulpit at the NY Times so provide us with the genius formula that has outwitted two generations of generals and geo-political tacticians.

We are waiting...
samg (d.c.)
cohen sounds like trump. ISIS terror is obama's fault. of course if there were 20 or 30 thousand more pairs of american boots on the ground in the middle east...what? brussels and paris wouldn't have happened. who says so? cohen? it only takes about half a dozen pairs of sneakers or fewer to commit terrorist attacks in europe that cause 100 or more casualties. and it has nothing to do with how many thousands of boots we have on the ground in iraq and syria. except that the more boots we have on the ground in these god-forsaken doomed-from-the-start wars, the more boots -- with american soldiers' legs in them -- we lose for no good reason and to no good effect.
Jim Cullers (Austin, TX)
These articles that denounce restraint of reaction without offering another approach are basically cheap shots. Please tell me one instance of a successful response.
Europe should defend itself. "America must lead" translates as America must fork over billions and put its soldiers at risk for other countries (imagine the young men of Europe volunteering en masse to defend American shores). Their welfare states depend on us shouldering most of the burden of their defense. Recall that they created the Euro to compete against the dollar. Any US visitor there can instantly sense their contempt for us. Let Europe send troops to Syria; nothing's stopping them. Have at it.
Colenso (Cairns)
Belgium symbolises the failed dream of a united Europe, just as Syria and Iraq symbolise the failed dream of a united Araby.

Belgium is a failed state. This is why bombers can set off so easily two bombs in the international departure hall of the Brussels airport at Zaventem and one at the Maalbeek underground stop.

Belgium was created to carve out a buffer zone against the imperial ambitions of the little Corsican and his rapacious relatives. Sawn out of northeastern France and the southern Lowlands, the Roman Catholic French speaking populace objected, of course, to being ruled by a liberal anti-clerical Calvinist prince from Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Belgium has gone downhill ever since.

Molenbeek, nearly the heart of Brussels, is a dismal dump, a concrete jungle, a testament to the global incompetence of modernist architects, where the wind blows between tall, thin public housing blocks shaped like cigarette packs stood on their sides.

Even if you weren't already the alienated child of North African Arab-speaking migrants who were enticed to the region to work in the no-longer existing coalmines of Wallonia, after living in those blighted blocks with the rain endlessly trickling down your always-closed aluminium windows, you soon would be.

Belgium is insurmountably, endlessly incompetent. Split Belgium into three parts: Francophone; Dutch; German. Let France take the first, the Netherlands the second, Germany the third. It's time to reshape Europe, and Syria and Iraq.
Mark Bernstein (Honolulu)
I understand that this column is reactionary in nature, but it is exactly the reaction that ISIS wants and is the reaction that drives the charismatic allure of ISIS that attracts those pathetic souls who believe that dying will provide them with fame and glory. The current terror movement will end when terror garners little or no reaction, instead of our current fascination and non stop hysterical reportage. It's by no means easy to not react to senseless violence but we really do need to ask ourselves if the expressions of horror, outrage and breast beating help or merely send a message to ISIS of "mission accomplished, we're terrified."
jpkerr (Lexington, MA)
Cohen once again attacks the Obama administration as overly cautious, but offers no policy options that might be more effective. Does he want American boots on the ground in Syria? A second invasion of Iraq targeting ISIS?Or does he simply want to say that the President's restraint looks weak when there is a terrorist attack and avoid sounding as foolish as Trump and Cruz?

What would Cohen do? Emitting heat and gas isn't a solution.
James B (Pebble Beach)
In plain, simple words, it would be useful to hear exactly what Mr. Cohen is recommending that the U.S. government do.

Is it really easy to complain about the failures of current policy. Of course. Any blogger could do it in a couple of minutes.

But clearly, to come up with something that is truly better than our current strategy appears to be beyond Mr. Cohen. Which leaves him with the empty bluster of complaining. A sad sight for the NY Times.
Kilroy (Jersey City NJ)
If Mr. Cohen wants to chain ISIS to a U.S. president and his administration, let me recommend the triumvirate of Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld.

ISIS is the spawn of Sunni discontent unleashed when B C R didn't have an Iraqi integration plan for "Shock and Awe, Day Two." They didn't have any plan.

The bombings and shootings are horrible, but panic won't help to bring them to a halt. Obama got us out of the regional quicksand as best as possible. I'm in no hurry to send in U.S. infantry; certainly not into an area in which stateless combatants speak a language we don't understand, don't identify themselves by their uniforms, and are able to camouflage themselves among civilians. We tried in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't work.
julie wagner (los angeles)
You hope that your kids learn to understand the warning signs and avoid trouble. Even a child would know to lock the doors against violent strangers. What you are saying is that we should silence the person with common sense and courage to secure our borders against terrorists and people who can potentially provide hiding places for them.
Bruce (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Not Belgium's fault. Not Obama's fault. Not America's fault. The fault with this and with every single murder and terror attack is the same - the fault is the people who kill innocent people.
Blame the killers not those of us who are living peaceful lives.
RVP (St. Louis, MO)
So what's the solution you - Mr. Cohen - would advocate? So often you screech with your pen but aren't you part of the same tired cabal that sold us all on the piffle that we would be welcomed as liberators. The middle east has under three types of stresses. There are the internecine tribal wars and the conflicted allegiances they breed. There are the mullahs who want to see a Sunni vs. Shia showdown to the finish. And because these tensions will never resolve themselves, strongmen have tried to rein in the tensions through their own mad, despotic ways. Sadly, we, without a hint of understanding or knowledge have switched our allegiances rather routinely over the past seventy years and now the chickens have come home to roost. Let's face it: We cannot fix what we've broken. The cancer has metastasized and it is within our free societies. We can only be guilty of three things at this point: Disengage from the middle east, improve our policing and intelligence gathering, and become actively involved in our muslim communities to root out the sense of disenfranchisement and keep the ISIS message from penetrating into our societies. Everything else, including the cods wallop you - Mr. Cohen - are selling, must be avoided at all costs.
Golda (Jerusalem)
I heard from two different news sources yesterday that people who enter the Brussels airport dont go through a metal detector and a bag check. If this is true, they were living in some kind of dream. Of course here in Israel, we go through checks at the entrances to malls, theaters and other public places and in America when I fly there are extensive checks.
CML (Amsterdam)
Further to my earlier comments, you also do not acknowledge at all that significant numbers of attacks in Europe are committed by European citizens. The denial that so many of Europe's problems are homegrown is staggering.
P Robison (Wyoming)
Of course the ISIS situation is difficult, but what would you suggest Obama does differently? If ISIS ceased to exist tomorrow, this threat would still exist in Europe. These attackers are largely alienated nationals of European nations who have found an outlet in radical Islam, and bombing Syria does not change that. Before ISIS, there were attacks carried out under the banner of other organizations, and new radical Islamist organizations will likely emerge in the future. The hard reality is that the only way to fight this is through good policing and intelligence that identifies militant networks and dismantles them before attacks, and on a larger level, dealing with the social problems that result in over 50% unemployment amongst Muslim youth and feelings of deep alienation. The Molenbec neighborhood is a prime example.
Dan (California)
These types of murderous attacks are atrocious and evil, and they should never be tolerated, but at the same time, if all lives are of equal value, the response to these attacks should be commensurate with their impact. There are many ways that people die prematurely...crime, accidents, and disease. We should not allow terrorists to nudge us into overreacting at the expense of our values, our soldiers, and our economy. Terrorists are so named because fear, and the overreaction that fear risks engendering, are their game. Let us respond to terrorists as we respond to any other types of criminals. Let us not let them turn our lives, values, and economies upside down.
Hamid Varzi (Spain)
There is no solution. The damage is irreparable.

The totally asinine policies of the West created this disaster: The U.S. created Al Qaeda, Europe bombed the life out of Libya and Syria, then Western political leaders turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's creation of ISIS.

Meanwhile Israel continued to get a free ride from the U.S. which 'admonished' it for breaking U.S. laws banning settlement expansion. The result? More Islamic extremism.

Europe and world leaders then bowed before Saudi oil and money, allowing them to finance terrorist-breeding Sunni-Wahhabi madresehs all across the world.

Angela Merkel compounded the problem by granting free entry to anyone claiming to be a war refugee, including Afghans working in Iran for $200/month and preferring to receive EUR 600/month, free healthcare and free education from Germany for doing nothing other than molesting women at public events.

Brain-dead Western politicians bear far more responsibility for Islamic terrorism than the terrorists themselves who are merely the result of those policies.
cmk (Omaha, NE)
From such an intelligent writer, this is amazingly simplistic. And using the example of Syria is particularly bizarre.

The fighters in Syria could never have been divided into the "good guys" and the "bad guys." There were many groups who were allegedly "defending" a population terrorized by its government. To be sure there were citizen defenders, but many other groups were masqueraders, potential international terrorists exploiting the situation, hoping that the US would be gulled into weaponizing them (as it guilelessly weaponized Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda).

What is it exactly that the US should do? Waste the lives of thousands of troops as they chase/kill these guys so they can set up shop somewhere else? That won't work. What are you suggesting?

The most effective approach seems to me to have a genuine ALLIED force that focuses its best brains in technology--mapping and communication, its smartest on-the-ground spies, a thorough and prudent check on those going in and out of countries, and one international information source that can access all of this information. In short, we (meaning the world) have the tools to crush this RELATIVELY SMALL population of chaos-makers. But until a significant group of nations--especially in the Middle East--have decided that civilization is more important than temporary political shifts in power--we will continue to suffer the bloody result that a small group of bullies visits on all of us.
AK (Seattle)
When you support airstrikes against them and declare war, what do you think they are going to do? This is the cost of war - and it is trivial compared to the costs of the major wars of the last century. When we think we can dictate the lives of the poor and oppressed, it turns out they will find ways to hurt us. Give isis tanks and AA batteries and they will stop the suicide bombings. Or we put up with this and accept it as the price of the war we wage.
quilty (ARC)
It would seem that the question of why Raqqa can be tolerated while Tora Bora was not is one to be asked in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul.

It also seems worth bearing in mind that Al Qaeda's leader was not found in Tora Bora, but instead in Pakistan. That is something that hopefully the American government is urgently questioning, or at least pondering when they are not too busy refusing to do anything. Perhaps President Obama would have some additional attentional resources to spend on defeating IS if the Republican congress was not focused on making everything they possibly can as difficult as possible for Obama.

President Obama is fighting a two-front war: First there is the scorched earth campaign led by Mitch McConnell and the Koch militias that would rather break down the ability of the government to function than give the impression that a black man can be an effective leader worthy of respect. Then the president is waging a battle against religious fundamentalists that use public executions as a recruiting tool while being bound to avoid any and all civilian casualties to not give the appearance of a US-led "war on Islam" to the Islamic world that seems to care more about that than having murderous jihadists acting as its public relations team.

But ultimately, Raqqa is Syria's fault, just as Auschwitz was Germany's fault.
KC (Coral Springs, FL)
Interesting, not unlike "the Donald" and fanatical "Cruz" our Media is stoking fear and pandering to the herd mentality that is reminisent of the Hitler Regime. There's now a bogeyman in every corner - and like Sheep too many Americans are falling for what led rise to the Hitler's and Musolini's of the World, aka Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The Media continues to give voice to these political lightweights who mouth hatred to an all too willing audience of Americans whom have seen their lives turned upside down, not because of the migrants, minorities or terrorist - but by their own inability to cope with a changing world that no longer makes it a 'no brainer' for those accustom to White privilege. So-called American leaders destabilized the Middle East giving rise to the Islamic State in the name of Democracy - but it was all about greed and world order. Now, the chickens have really come home to roost and look around you - we're slowly but surely losing our democracy as the crazies will eventually insist that we all wear an implanted chip, have curfews, and 'Big Brother' oversight. It's sad that the Media has been a co-conspirator in our demise.
John (New Jersey)
Obama - "we're leaving the middle east, and will only deploy occasional drones to drop some bombs, kill a terrorist or two, along with a number of innocent people. We'll free the terrorists in Guantanamo. And we'll lead the world in welcoming anyone from these troubled countries to come to the west, where we'll pay their welfare, protect them from our own citizens, and make endless excuses for their behavior".

Terrorists - "Oh goodie, now its easier to kill more people!"
Nora (MA)
An absolute NO, to boots on the ground! No more young Americans to be sacrificed for the Middle East. Follow the money...that is where the answer is, on how to defeat these barbaric bullies.
Phil (Brentwood)
"The dangerous thing about this territory, which the group calls a caliphate, is not so much its oil revenue, or training facilities, or proximity to the West, or control over several million people — it is its magnetic assertion of Sunni jihadi power."

That's true. But let's not forget that radical Islamists were causing mayhem long before ISIS claimed a caliphate. Remember al Qaeda? Remember the Breslan School Massacre? Remember the various radical Islamic groups that have been troubling Africa for decades? The problem isn't isolated to ISIS; it's the global radical Islamic movement that's the threat. The only thing that motivates and unites them is radical Islam.
PB (&lt;br/&gt;)
How in the world is this terrible tragedy the sole responsibility for the U.S. and Obama to solve? European cities are hit repeatedly, beginning with London in 2005 and yet they contribute less and less to the NATO "alliance" while the U.S. spends more and more.

Please, please read Jeffrey Goldberg's amazing article in The Atlantic detailing the Obama Doctrine. It is heavy reading, not subject to the 20-second sound bite. It is incredibly nuanced but at its core - unless there is an existential threat to the U.S. homeland, we will no longer waste blood and treasure in furtherance of others' interests.

The U.S. and Obama will never turn its back on Europe but it is time for the Europeans to step up and clean their own house.
I think these gentlemen are playing in the modern world with a 7th Century rule book and they would flay the other cheek if you turned it. But they're not born that way and, if we're not careful, killing the current crop of them will only sow the next one.
Grouch (Toronto)
I don't understand--this is somehow Obama's fault? He is supposed to have done something differently? What, exactly?
RER (Mission Viejo Ca)
This is the world we now live in and it is one largely of our own creation. After spending trillions and trillions of dollars on mid-east wars, covert actions and propping up dictators we have accomplished nothing but to make the problem worse. Blaming this on Obama is ridiculous. But perhaps Mr. Cohen will volunteer to be part of the first wave of boots on the ground in the next round of this misadventure? I didn't think so...
Joe (Vegas)
Our President takes little note of what happens to one of our oldest allies in Brussels, Belgium. Of course, he had time for baseball with Marxists, hang in their with a wave at the stadium, give a piece of tired blather about terrorism and then back on his "Legacy Tour" to Argentina. I wonder if he knows that: "Nine Americans injured in Brussels terror attack included 3 Mormon missionaries, a US Air Force lieutenant colonel and five members of his family." Shameful!
Sev Iyama (Mojave, California)
I believe that if we have a woman president, maybe that will freak these lunatics. They seem to be scared of being killed by female Kurdish fighters, because according to their insane ideology, if a woman soldier kills them, they can't go to Allah.
They attacked Brussels in retaliation to the capture of Salah Abdeslam.
Just imagine what might happen if we have Trump or Cruz in office.
ISIS is not rational. It is a completely insane monster, just like the Hydra from Greek mythology. If you cut off one head, two heads pop out instead.
David Smith (Lambertvill, Nj)
"The question raised most urgently by the Brussels attacks, so soon after Paris, is whether and why Raqqa can be tolerated when Al Qaeda’s Tora Bora sanctuary in Afghanistan was not."

And how has that worked out for us, Mr. Cohen? And now you want to reward this extremist cult with exactly what they want, another crusade for their propaganda machine. They hold an end time religious worldview and further invasion by western powers, which helped create them in the first place, is exactly what they want.

I agree that infantry is needed to dismantle their showcase "caliphate." We should support that effort by Muslim troops.
Warren Roos (Florida)
Your war like rhetoric names/blames Obama. You need to back a president.
mennenster (ithaca, ny)
Obama's approach lacks drama, but Cohen's has plenty of hysteria. It is clear that the attack is directed to Europe and the EU must coordinate the counter attack. America to the rescue is not an option. Obama has been trying to wean us off the heroic archetype, evidently if this op-Ed is any evidence with ponderous results.
Unworthy Servant (Long Island NY)
The question, "But then what" is critical. It is the axis point upon which the whole conundrum spins. Defeat Daesh or Isis as our broadcasters insist on calling it, and leave a vacuum with no viable government in place and what have you achieved, Mr. Cohen? In short order another jihadist mob, armed to the teeth and hating the West will spring up in short order in the chaos. Need we look further than Libya to see what chaos brings?

So, Mr. Cohen send in infantry, you say? Make no mistake, it won't be Turkey or Russia or any European country rolling into Syria or the borderlands of Iraq. No. it would have to be us, as in U.S. Let us be clear there. I agree with you that the stakes are high, and getting higher by the day. Contrary to most conventional wisdom, it would not surprise me if a Clinton presidency (and likely a Cruz one) did push for just such a plan. But what happens the day after Raqqa is retaken and the black flags fall? Consider carefully.
Thomas Paine Redux (Brooklyn, NY)
"In the United States, Islamic State terror also plays into the hands of demagogues, chief among them Donald Trump, ..."

When did the harsh measures pursued by Lincoln during the Civil War and those by FDR and Churchill during WW II cross the line from demagoguery to the necessary short-term measures required to ensure the long-term protection of the freedoms and values we've come to cherish here in Western civilization?!

When will we as Americans and Europeans recognize that there are fanatical Islamist factions that will stop at nothing to subjugate or destroy us?! Then, when will we stop parsing and pursuing half-measures and forcefully lash out and crush the cancerous heart of Islam in Saudi Arabia and its vassal states?!

Or, will we merely crawl up in to a ball and build the walls of Fortress America, turning or back on the world, saying "Nevermore!"?!
Jeanie Diva (New York)
There is no plan because they can't figure out what to do. Isn't that obvious? Our way of fighting is useless in this situation, it was useless in Vietnam, too. Did we learn anything? No. As someone else here said, "how will you militarily defeat the ideology inspiring them?" How, indeed?

The government can claim all day that it will "keep us safe" but it cannot possibly do that. No one can. If people were told the truth, would they panic? Who knows? There is no such thing in life as security. Thinking there is is the greatest joke.

For decades we tried to manipulate the Middle East keeping it under our thumb using espionage, subterfuge, and undercover "maneuvers". We might have used awful means but it kept the area quiet. W. Bush decided that lying to the American public was OK because he wanted to kill "Saddam". Saddam, he said, "tried to kill my daddy". Was this decent foreign policy?

You have to be taught to hate. If someone figures out how to get rid of "being taught to hate" in any form, the entire world would change. Good luck with that.
John Whit (Hartford, CT)
Roger- la difference ? 2000 Americans dead versus 30 Belgians...with all due respect, that is both a quantitative and qualitative difference....I'm not supporting obama's policy, but until Europe is willing to bear a significant amount of the fighting, esp on the ground , in Syria, and our "allies" turkey and Riyadh step up, Obama has a perfectly valid excuse to hang back.
Lonnie Barone (Doylearown, PA)
I was listening to a 1940's radio station and heard a wartime song stating brazenly that our bombs will turn Japan into a graveyard. We were fully at war, yet the public mood was hardly congenial to the Japanese here or abroad. The notion that a ground war in Syria will unleash the better angels is frankly ridiculous.
Paul King (USA)
Like every concerned person I want to see the scourge of these attacks and their perpetrators eliminated. Would love for it all to go away.

But tell me how fighting in Raqqa, which I'm not necessarily against, keeps a radicalized crazy person from pulling out an all to easy to get weapon in this country and killing 40 people at a mall in… you pick it.

Answer that question specifically and intelligently, Rodger or anyone, and we'll go from there.
Wake Up and Dream (San Diego, CA)
Mr Cohen is brave when it comes to sending another person's child into a hopeless and endless Middle East war. The United States military is not Mr Cohen's private militia. For him to continuously demand a call to arms is getting tiresome. We are not Europe's unpaid mercenary war machine. Mr Cohen appears to be more of a European than a US citizen.

Do you have children that you are willing to sacrifice in Syria Mr Cohen? If so send them, not ours.
surgres (New York)
I am glad someone in the paper is writing how President Obama and his policies are not working. Obama is very happy to "turn the other cheek" when someone else is getting hit in the face. That doesn't make him wise (which is what he believes), it makes him a hypocrite and a coward.
Joseph (Israel)
The evil started with turning a blind eye to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza - both internationally recognized terror organizations that hold territory.
Then there is the Palestinian Authority which openly rewards terrorists' families, but still gets ample funding.
The way things go, the west will have to pay off ISIS.
Larry Lundgren (Sweden)
Reading Times Picks and Readers' Picks for this column has been the most satisfying experience I have had in comparison with reading the same at almost every column every day on Europe and asylum seeking.

Here all those at the top are written by readers who are well informed and clearly understand the situation better than does Roger Cohen. Even a sample of "All" suggests that this high level is maintained by the majority of commenters.

There is a puzzle. How can anyone as intelligent as Roger Cohen have this troubling blind spot, one I fear Hillary Clinton may have? And how am I to understand the high level of the commenting as compared with that at the reports from Brussels, for example. At least Roger understands that Donald Trump - and by extension the 1000s in most comment sections who support his ban on all Muslims - plays into the hands of Daesh.

But bombing Raqqa?
Dual citizen-USA SE
Olivier (Brussels)
I think Putin was right, we should have dealt with Assad. As evil he is, at least it was possible to deal with him and he did not bomb us.
Kovács Attila (Budapest)
The Front National's going support predates the Islamic State. In other part of Europe it is the refugee and immigration policies, that caused the emergence of right-wing parties. These policies also predates the creation of the IS, and the consequences will be with us after the destruction of the IS.

To sum it up: the problem in Europe is not the IS. But the policies.
ETC (Geneva)
I don't begrudge Mr Cohen his anger but I resent that his position is that Obama should be doing more. Clearly a major problem is the response by the European Union. Why is it so easy for terrorists to move around and commit atrocities here? What is Europe doing to protect Europe? Certainly a united Europe has the capacity to confront ISIS both in Europe and in the Middle East.
The Obama doctrine stems in part from his disrespect for free riders. Do you remember when Cameron couldn't get his parliment to back a US military strike in Syria? And Merkel wouldn't supprt it either. Why not? If Europe wants to eliminate this threat they can do just fine on their own. Obama was elected because the majority of Americans don't want Americans dying in the Middle East. The rest of the world needs to respect that.
Chusk Roastev (California)
These terrorist attacks are tragic and frightening, but they represent a tiny thread to Western nations in terms of casualties compared to an all-out war. Terrorism is only an existential threat if governments respond in a disproportionate manner, using their militaries to try to stamp out the terrorists where they live. How did that work out in Iraq or Afghanistan? How much safer is the Middle East since our intervention in Libya?
The frustration that ISIS appears to be thumbing its nose at us is understandable, but to bumble into their own territory, all guns blazing, is exactly what they want.
Dan Kravitz (Harpswell, Me)
One of the wounded Belgians said that the airport looked like a war zone. Of course it did. It is.

I keep hearing from the talking heads (including President Obama) that it will take years to defeat ISIL.


NATO has about 4 million people under arms, and NATO members are far from the only states that could and should be involved. ISIL might have 100,000 and the 40:1 troop ratio does not take weaponry into account.

ISIL has declared war on the West and the West now has no choice but to fight that war. I do not suggest this lightly, nor discount the costs it will incur in lost and damaged lives, and treasure. But what is the alternative?

Dan Kravitz
robert garcia (Reston, VA)
Cohen blames Obama, calls for the US Cavalry, and fails to provide any idea of EU/NATO military strategy to combat ISIS in Europe.
As with healthcare, nobody has a better idea. Implying that a different president, a Ray-gun perhaps would put a stop to these attacks is just silly. We are dealing with a death cult. How you explain to someone who is prepared to die that their actions may have serious consequences?
peinstein (oregon)
I respect Roger Cohen's vehemence as he feels the pain and frustration that reflect his strong empathy for Europeans. I do not subscribe to the notion that this is Obama's game to play. ISIS rose from the ashes of Zarqawi whose influence metastasized in post-invasion Iraq. Cohen rails at Obama for inaction but is as usual unclear on what actions, specifically, should be taken, and by whom. His consistent vilification of Obama's approach undermines whatever point he is trying to make.
DR (Colorado)
Please, this isn't Obama's fault. You are blaming the president for an attack in another country that the United States doesn't provide security for by forces that have never attacked the United States. It would be just as fair to blame the 2001 Belgium prime minister Guy Verhofstadt for 9/11. The president's job is to keep America safe and he has done that, with no foreign terrorist attacks during his administration. That alternative to the president's policy, inferred by this column, is to invade Syria and other countries and regions where ISIS has a hold. Bush did that, with vigor, and look at what that has caused.
Joe (Danville, CA)
ISIS was born in 2003 when America invaded Iraq without cause and completely destabilized the region, maybe for hundreds of years. That the neocon geniuses Cheney and Co. never considered this attests to their ignorance. The war was going to "pay for itself".

We owe allegiance to our European allies, but this is their fight first. I'm reluctant to see thousands more Americans die when we have so many problems right here at home. Invade Raqqa? Leave that to the Europeans. It may not be fair, but they were part of W's "coalition of the willing" in 2003.
Okay Roger, get off the soapbox. Let's have your ideas – for crying out loud. You're not adding much to the argument here, my friend.
SA (Canada)
If ISIS is not starved into oblivion, hundreds more attacks will occur around the world. What have Western governments done in terms of efforts to dry out whatever revenue ISIS has accumulated and is still managing to draw? I suspect very little. Why? I don't know. Islamist terrorism is actually more of a business enterprise than a 'religious' one. It is very lucrative for the small group of Iraqi ex-Saddam officers, while providing temporary excitement, sex slaves and, yes, some sort of employment to whatever young losers they can snag in their slick propaganda. The top echelon does not give a damn about Islam, they just use it as a convenient prop, perfectly adapted to their business plan, which will still perform perfectly for them even after they relinquish 99% of their territory. They are ruthless warlords and as long as they can pay their brain dead troops and provide them with flesh and gore, they will keep going, while preparing their well-earned retirement in the French Riviera, under new identities, faces and resumes. The failure of the West is in not going after the money, instead of spending billions on useless bombing campaigns. ISIS is so rich that it can afford (and will use) mass destruction weapons soon enough. It is astonishing that they still exist and it is a shame for all of us who allow our inefficient governments to use more often than not the most useless methods while averting their eyes from the obvious.
Haitch76 (Watertown)
Maybe if the coalition forces stopped attacking in the Muslim lands, the attacks in Paris, Brussels, etc. will stop. The Muslim violence comes out of the violence of western invasions and occupations. Think of it: did this happen before Osama bin Laden told the western powers to get out of the Muslim holy lands?

Western countries want to stay in the Middle East for strategic resources and strategic travel routes. This keeps the violence going on. We can only conclude that they're will many casualties as long as we battle in the Middle East. Maybe it's all "collateral damage" as far our rulers are concerned, and they're not about to give up their strategic resources.
CTJames 3 (New Orleans,La.)
I wonder what the author and others think Obama should have done? That this is a tragedy is without question but to propose in some way Obama is at fault is simply nuts. I expect this from a trump or a Cruz, coming from the times this garbage is a disappointment. Obama was after all on a trip to one of our closest neghibors and before this event that was considered a monumental accomplishment.
Jon (Concord, NH)
No, No, No, No, No.... This is not Obama's fault. Why do you keep saying that? This attack took place in Belgium, not the United States. Obama's policies in the Middle East are rightly geared towards U.S. security not just for the next few months, but for generations to come. We should not in any way be expected to take responsibility for every act of terrorism that occurs in the western world. And, we should certainly bite our tongues before outright and unfairly blaming the President of the United States for a terrorist attack in Belgium. What, do you want ground troops in there? Arm the rebels? Why not side with Assad? Gimme a break. It's times like these where cool, measured heads must prevail over the fear/warmongers.
Michael Rodriguez (DC)
What an interesting piece, Cohen. Lots of complaints but no real solutions or suggestions. Just a "shoulda coulda" rant about Obama protecting Europe. Good for you for having opinions you like to share.
Bags (Tucson, AZ)
Talk about taking both sides of an issue while adding no solution. We should: attack ISIS but not become like the National Front? Are you suggesting that we "make the desert glow?" I think most Americans would agree - no boots on the ground. You want to go fight ISIS, Mr. Cohen? What's stopping you?
Seldoc (Rhode Island)
Putting Western boots on the ground in Syria or anywhere else in the Mideast will not and cannot put an end to terrorists groups like ISIS (aka Al Qaeda in Iraq) any more than invading Iraq or Afghanistan did. Defeat them militarily and they will simply morph into something else. We know that. We've seen it happen. The problems that have given rise to ISIS and like organizations need to be addressed in the societies that spawn them and drive disaffected youths to them. In the meantime, American people, journalists and politicians of good faith must forcefully reject the demagoguery of fear mongers like Trump and Cruz who are bending this tragedy to their own political advantage.
'cacalacky (Frogmore, SC)
Roger, if you can't think any more clearly than what you've shown here, try laying bricks, carpentry, other trades. Maybe you'll find your niche. Thank heavens we've got a thoughtful man in charge, not one likely to go off and start another vanity war.
Horaces Duskywing (Atex)
I respectfully refer the polemical Mr. Cohen to February 11, 2015. The link to the White House website is here:

Perhaps Mr. Cohen could direct some of his discontent to the Congress of the United States? After seven years of hearing the same tedious complaints, I am tired of hearing about how it is all President Obama's fault.
C. Lofton (San Diego, CA)
ISIS thrives in areas where governments are weak. In some cases, said governments have been weakened as a direct result of US policy (Iraq, Syria, Libya). A larger US military intervention might temporarily reduce ISIS numbers, but would also greatly aid ISIS recruitment. As soon as US troops departed, security would deteriorate again, as witnessed in Iraq.
Bill Murphy (New York, NY)
"The dangerous thing about this its magnetic assertion of Sunni jihadi power. The United States and Europe would not have accepted its existence in 2001."

Mr. Cohen seems to have overlooked the fact that the United States single-handedly *created* the conditions for the existence of the Daesh by invading Iraq in 2003 — an errant adventure he supported. Now he seems to be advocating total military commitment yet again, as though "boots on the ground" in Syria will somehow impose a timetable on an enemy that fights asymmetrically. That too would be folly, and Obama understands this.
tanstaafl (Houston)
You miss the obvious conclusion Roger. The open borders policy of the EU is a huge mistake and needs to be reversed. Otherwise the terrorists find the EU country of least resistance and make their home there. The other obvious conclusion is that the U.S. has been partially shielded by it stricter immigration policies, and it should cancel, permanently, any plans to accept more refugees from Syria.

ISIS was borne from the aftermath of Bush's Iraq war. Europe is targeted because it is actively fighting ISIS right now. Can you not see the folly of another all-out war in the Middle East? It feeds the expanding circle of terrorism
D Z (Peoria, IL)
Roger Cohen wakes up to the need for disproportionate response to get through to the disproportionately obstinate enemy. Congrats.
Tom (Arlington)
What a coward Richard Cohen is. Criticize and call a policy "capitulation" and then offer not a SINGLE alternative. Pathetic.
Michael Bush (<br/>)
The article asserts that President Obama's strategy isn't working because it does nothing to prevent ISIS from killing Europeans. This is a feature, not a bug; security in Brussels is not and can not be an American responsibility.
cd (massachusetts)
So what is it you propose? We go into another Middle Eastern state with ground troops, wage a bloody fight...and then what? This time we get it right? We are capitulating, you say?
Keramies (Miami)
You say,

"Trump was, of course, quick to seize on the attacks to reiterate his bellicose warnings."

Not half as bellicose as you, Roger!
mhsullivan (Santa Monica, CA)
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

"The charismatic appeal of the militant group," you say? Just because you wrote that, Cohen, does not make it true. Charismatic compared to what? The other 99.9% of the world that denounces ISIS? If you think ISIS is so great, please go write for *their* magazine.

"[They] can still hit [us] at will," you say? Then why did ISIS attack "an institutionally weak country suffering from poor intelligence and security coordination"? Don't give them more credit than they deserve. Better yet, stop giving them credit. Or does their charisma just make your knees weak?

"Time counts," you say? How much faster would you like 20% of their territory reclaimed *without* the dangerous provocation of an all-out ground war and the vicious insurgent cycle it would most definitely create? The strategy is winning; society needs sober reminders from columnists that these times are actually quite peaceful compared to the world's historic violence status quo. Knee-jerk reactions like this are going to get a whole lot more than 30 people killed.
elmueador (New York City)
Again, you volunteer your kids to "fight for our freedom" in Syria (as you advocated for the war in Iraq that produced ISIS) and you may write this kind of war mongering columns, otherwise I prefer to watch Fox News and read Billy Krystol to get the message unadulterated.
Mario Fusco (Atlanta, GA)
I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories, but something is wrong here. Could these people really do all this without the support and sponsorship of some big power broker? A rogue national state, a shadowy religious brotherhood with sizable resources ... or what? All the stories I have read about how they finance their operations are unconvincing, especially in that benighted part of the world. What is it we are not being told?
Bob Woolcock (California)
When liberals (like me) say the right is sowing fear in their rhetoric it's a bit disingenuous.

Are YOU actually afraid of being killed in a terror attack when you go to a theater or airport tomorrow? I'm not. It's not about fear - it's just that it drives us nuts to see this carnage happening to innocent people - so much so that we are about ready to do anything to put a stop to it.

Trump benefits from all of this - although hasn't yet been saddled with the responsibility of committing troops and lives as has Obama. He's free to say anything - but even I believe that SOMEONE in Brussels has information on that guy in the picture and isn't saying anything to authorities.
DM (New Jersey)
Mr. Cohen's suggestion is just a rehashing of the policy our former administration attempted, without success. It did not work then and it will not work now.
Here is what we learned from our last attempt to put boots on the ground. During that war we saw Al Qaeda blend into the population and made it impossible to uproot. We saw Al Qaeda expand from a small group before we invaded Iraq, to now where Al Qaeda has enough numbers to overthrow Yemen. What makes Mr. Cohen think we will be more successful against ISIS?
Here is what we should have learned- No matter how good our intentions, we will be considered foreign invaders, and many Sunnis will protect their Sunni brothers before finding out for themselves who the true villains are.
There lies the best solution, let the people find out who ISIS, or for that matter all radical fundamentalists are the true problem. Let us isolate and diminish ISIS's ability, but the people must learn for themselves that an eye for eye will lead to endless bloodshed. Only they can rebuild their society, boots on the ground will only prolong that lesson from being learned. Until that time where that society will stabilize, (and any intervention on our part will only destabilize it), will they police their society and be an active part of the global community to root out the violence that has spawned these terrorist threats.
query (west)
Most lecturing commenters seem unaware of the fact that Daesh is now a nation state that holds territory and that nothing breeds terrorist success like success, that the commenters, and their dear Obama, are happy to let breed away.

The ISIS rump nation state legacy. We are helpless! But, under no threat either.

Aspen (New York City)
I think it's a little too soon to say it's not working. How many years has it taken to recognize that Global Warming is the number one national security threat to the United States and every other nation. Actually it hasn't yet been recognized as the worst threat. So far more than 40 years since the first warning signs and beginnings of action. How many years did it take Ghandi to win freedom for India WITHOUT violence? 40 Years? The struggle is long. The approach varied. Addressing the root causes of terrorism is the only solution and that is not a military solution and it is not one that will be accomplished in a couple of years or even 10 years. Who has the vision and strength to see this through?
George S. (Michigan)
Every American willing to send your son and/or daughter to the Middle East to fight ISIS, please raise your hand.
Ancient Astronaut (New York)
As much as I like Obama, he's failed in one respect: calling out the evil in Islam. Repeatedly avoiding the criticism of Islam and Middle Eastern culture achieves nothing, even for innocent Muslims who, ironically, are the primary victims of Islamic extremism. It's time to tell this to the leaders of the Muslim world: change your rhetoric or face economic sanctions and other consequences.
Art123 (Germany)
How is this President Obama's responsibility? He's now in charge of securing Europe? Of safeguarding Turkey's border, when Turkey itself has given ISIS free-reign to attack its enemies the Kurds and Assad? Europe has steadfastly refused to act in a unified manner militarily, preferring to allow the US to resolve world conflicts while it channels its wealth toward its own personal economic interests. The attacks in Belgium and France are horrific, but they and the inflow of migrants underscore Europe's denial of the growing threat the Syrian conflict presents to their own security. Military intervention must be a multilateral effort by the US and Europe, not just symbolically but in real costs, both financial and human. Until Europeans accept their role in the world, the threat of terrorism can't be successfully confronted.
Art123 (Germany)
How is this President Obama's responsibility? He's now in charge of securing Europe? Of safeguarding Turkey's border, when Turkey itself has given ISIS free-reign to attack its enemies the Kurds and Assad? Europe has steadfastly refused to act in a unified manner militarily, preferring to allow the US to resolve world conflicts while it channels its wealth toward its own personal economic interests. The attacks in Belgium and France are horrific, but they and the inflow of migrants underscore Europe's denial of the growing threat the Syrian conflict—and those in the Ukraine and elsewhere—present to their own security. Military intervention must be a multilateral effort by the US and Europe, not just symbolically but in real costs, both financial and human. Until Europeans accept their role in the world, the threat of terrorism can't be successfully confronted.
Agnostique (Europe)
If there is a large attack attributed to ISIS in America you will likely get your US ground war. Emotions will take over where a cool head is needed. And if timed right it could also bring you a Republican President.

What next? Somalia? Northern Nigeria? Libya? Why not? We have a proven track record with Iraq and Afghanistan, havens of peace and democracy.

Over-reaction is an error. We should continue to bomb ISIS and support local players. Keep it at arm's length but provide support and intelligence, cut off financing, get them off the internet, etc. Work with Turkey and other ME players to handle the immigration issue (being done). Obama is right and his worth really shows in times like these.

Europe needs to improve management of radicalized risks at home. As for blocking all Muslims: We are talking about a very small minority of muslims that are terrorists. Generalizations are not productive. If you happen to actually know any Muslims you know what I'm talking about. Should we have blocked all German immigration to keep the Trump family from sneaking in?
Sanibel (Dallas)
"prevent it from killing Europeans", How about "prevent it from killing anybody"?
Robert (Hawaii)
There is always a tendency to believe that the US can and should police the world's problems, and to blame the US President, when that expectation is not fulfilled. We are not the world's only country, and we are not, nor should we be in charge.
EJF (Belgium)
This is largely a failure of European domestic policy. When young people return from Syria to be viewed with sympathy, pyschological help, and generous welfare; when radical islamism is tolerated, even fanned, to get votes; when the great Mosque in the Parc du Cinquantenaire smack in the middle of the European Quarter in Brussels is in the hands of Saudi Arabian Wahabite fanatics; when crowds surround and taunt, with impunity, the police during the arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek... Maybe it is time we (in Europe) stop appeasing and start to be very firm, US-style. Europe, Belgium, France...: love it or leave it. If you commit treason (i.e. fight in Syria) you lose your citizenship and stay away or come back to prison for life.
Hmmmm (Brussels)
It's disappointing to see a normally thoughtful columnist blithely claim that Obama's restraint reflects weakness, without once positing what specific actions should be taken, what those actions would cost in blood and treasure, or whether that cost would be worth it to the United States. As a Brussels resident, the last thing I want is a bombing campaign in which Arab villages and cities are exposed to the same carnage as happened here yesterday. This will only draw deeper from the well of dissatisified, unemployed and unanchored young muslim men in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe to fill the ranks of suicide bombers.
SJM (Denver, CO)
Mr. Cohen's essay is clear, succinct, and spot on.
For all the gyrations of so many commenters, it's not all that complicated.
It is a definable and finite task if we have the will and determination.
Get ISIS out of Raqqa, and do not let them gather anyplace else, ever again.
As far as the ideology always being there, no matter what, well, again, that's a lack of will and determination.
Are the nationalist Japanese who ran amok in Asia 70-80 years ago still around? No.
Are disciples of Hitler a significant threat?
Allow ISIS no place to gather, as the first step. And then as for the survival of their ideology or any similar ideology, zero tolerance.
A simple, definable, and finite task.
And a necessary task. Unless, that is, you really think a world where a trip to work can end with you being blown to bits is acceptable.
jephtha (France)
Roger, until I read in the news that you have gone to your local army recruiting station and volunteered for front line duty, I will continue to believe that you are the typical coward who wants to fight wars with the bodies of other people and their children. Conventional warfare simply isn't going to stop this menace.
EG (Taipei)
It's too bad that the brilliant European minds who lied and connived their way through World War One aren't the ones getting blown to bits. It's too bad that so many of our soldiers have suffered and died, and the men responsible for the debacle in Iraq are all comfortably living stateside.

So many smart, strong, tough men. How superior they must have felt in their meetings, where they just knew that "those people" would do whatever they wanted so long as their was a gun to their heads.

Now "those people" who were taught by the west that violence "solves" political problems, are trying to solve their political problems through violence.

The violence needs to stop. ISIS needs an enemy more than anything else, and all of the "smart" people wag their fingers at the one man who isn't going all in for violence.

People need jobs and institutions, or they will resort to crime and violence. Stop telling us what Obama is doing wrong, and start telling us how YOU would create institutions that these young people can join so they see a better future other than dying in a suicide bombing or in a drone strike.

Then, and only then will Mr. Cohen or any of these other hacks be "the smartest people in the room".
Glen Macdonald (Westfield, NJ)
Sorry Roger, but the alternative, a W-style war and surge would only lead to more counter-violence. Have we not learned that lesson?

And why do you open with "President Obama's slow-but steady strategy…" when Iran's fight, Jordanian bombing, French and British raids, NATO planning, our laser-like drones, Kurd fighters on the ground, Assad's ruthless army in Syria, classic CIA machinations and Russian intervention have all not worked either to stem the scourge of ISIS?

We either need more of Obama’s strategy combined with effective social policies in the bidonvilles in the Paris and Brussels suburbs that offer real hope and integration, or a Truman style ultimatum to Tehran and Riyadh – fix this or else.
Cord (Basking Ridge NJ)
You write, " this may drive people to rightist leaders like Marine Pen" as if that in itself is the automatic disqualifier to any such thought. Maybe strength, profiling, borders, controls are actually superior ideas to those on the left- weakness, denial, pandering, giving in and accepting death by terrorism as just another inconvenience of life. Maybe you need to listen to the ideas of Pen, Cruz, Trump and others like them.
fishbum1 (Chitown)
When you terrorize people long enough, eventually they will terrorize you back. The US has been bombing Iraq for 26 years. We've had troops on the ground in Afganistan for 14 years. The total cost of just those two wars is over $2 Trillion dollars. So, Roger, how has that worked out? Let's call it a total failure. And somehow, by repeating these mistakes, now it's going to work? No wonder people are voting for Trump and Sanders...their aim is to wreck the Establishment.
J-P (Austin)
Blaming President Obama for insufficient action against the Islamic state is akin to blaming him for not doing enough to counter climate change - a facile, gratuitous, and absurd charge. Is Mr. Cohen suggesting boots on the ground, precisely what ISIS seeks? The Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks can be attributed to deep societal strains within Europe, strains that have festered for a long time and can hardly be laid at the doorstep of the U.S. The alienation and radicalization of jihadist perpetrators are a complex intra-European problem. If America is to be blamed for anything, it is its incapacity for effective action in countering Israeli settlement policy in the occupied territories, a recruitment tool for all jihadists.
Fred (Brussels, BE)
What good is striking in Raqqa if we allow Saudi Arabia to fund the building of Saudi-style mosques with Wahhabi preachers right under our noses, radicalising young muslims? We should hold our own elected politicians accountable, if they continue to turn a blind eye for economic and shared geo-political (e.g. vs. Iran) interests.
labete (Cala Ginepro, Sardinia)
"There are no easy answers," writes Cohen. Here are some answers:
- Threaten Saudi Arabia to take in all Syrian refugees and put them in the tents the country uses for the Mecca pilgrimage. (There are about 4 million of them and they are empty most of the year; they are really nice tents). No refugees? No Saudi cooperation? Totally boycott everything Saudi Arabian in the West.
- Send each country's army into the fascist Muslim neighborhoods of their festering cities and profile and root out all evil doers. Cancel all government freebies to all Jihadist families of these evil mongers.
- drop leaflets all over Raqqa for 'innocent people' to leave for the Saudi Arabia tents. A week later, bomb all of Raqqa to smithereens. Then send in Syrian armies in Syria, Iraqi armies in Iraq. Let each Arab country use its own army. Decapitate ISIS. Get all Westerners out of the Middle East. Later on, trade only with the M.E. No Westerners can live there.
- close all borders and profile all Muslims everywhere in the West. If they are innocent let them prove it. They are guilty until proven innocent. Presume Guilt but treat with respect. No papers? Bad profile? Deport.
- Profile, deport, shut down, close off, erect walls; cut off all Internet access in areas like Molenbeek, Belgium all over the Western world
- no more touchy-feely, politically correct
- vote out Obama, Merkel, Hollande, etc. and vote in leaders who are willing to call a spade a spade
Spender. CGB (Dublin)
Dear Roger are you obliquely calling for a US/NATO attack on Syria? Based on assertions that this attack was planned in Syria and carried out by Syrians.
Yesterday morning we did not know this outrage was coming. Today we 'know' it emanated from Syria? This has shades of we must invade Iraq because of 911 and we all know how true that turned out to be.

Now if we do attack Syria we will find that we are attacking Russia as well because Moscow will not stand by passively and US/NATO will find for the first time in the last half century that they will be up against an adversary that can take a blow and then strike back unlike the powerless countries we have attacked before.
So be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.
Quinn (&lt;br/&gt;)
"But the president does not say when victory will come against these forces he declined to identify, and time counts."

So, another PR stunt on an aircraft carrier with the words "mission accomplished" is clearly in order, according to Mr. Cohen.

Most others who are actually serious about fighting terrorism know it is going to be a long fight, with a lot of petty unsexy victories.
kushelevitch (israel)
We are getting used to Obama's disengagement from our reality,but was there no one with him to advise cutting short the trip to Cuba and Argentina? The attack on Brussels may just be a taste of what is to come . POTUS should be part of an immediate response .
Richard (Burlington, VT)
How do you defeat an idea?
jpduffy3 (New York, NY)
A very significant factor in the Brussels attacks is the almost complete lack of assimilation and total isolation of certain elements of Belgium's growing Muslim population. These people are marginalized, have very limited opportunities, and, as we have seen, many of the younger men who lack real opportunity have turned to radical ISIS inspired behavior. Part of this comes from the European policy of open borders and the need to import guest workers to fill low level positions that Europeans are loath to take themselves. Another, more important part, is the lack of assimilation and any meaningful effort to encourage assimilation. ISIS knows this and is very effective at tapping into it through very effective propaganda.

If a country is going to allow entry to a large number of immigrants of a particular background and culture, it must also make an effort to integrate these immigrants into the fabric of the country's society. Otherwise, these immigrants will form foreign cities within the host country's cities and become isolated. And, we know the rest of what happens.

If an immigrant group is not interested in assimilating, that might be a good reason for limiting access to that group. As harsh as this may sound to some, it is really a matter of common sense and compassion. If the group is not willing to assimilate, they will not fit in well and will likely wind up in ghetto conditions and worse, which is not good for the group or the host country.
Damien Holland (Amsterdam, NL)
You're not going to stop all terrorist attacks no matter how much intelligence or how many police and soldiers you have everywhere. Many will be stopped but not all.
Jag Pop (Bushwoods, MD)
Wars are supposed to be easier than this.
We should be able to ignore international law and the sovereignty of nations without the gore disturbing our shores.
We and our allies wanted to fund, transport, supply, support and recruit militants to go to Syria and stay there. Stay there. We didn't want them coming back hardened and trained by our wars.
(Though op ed after op ed warned us the militants would travel elsewhere, would return. So we knew. We had to know.)
We want...we want...we want wars that are nice and don't disturb us.
ps. Vote for Hillary, she was behind the chaos that created the cesspool of militancy that is now Libya. A cesspool that has spread weapons and militants far and wide. Obama says Hillary is responsible for the Syria mess as well (doesn't Obama take responsibility for anything?).
Hillary didn't learn from the Libya disaster, she has been pushing for, and **still** pushes for, a "no-fly zone" in Syria. "No-fly zone" is for giving air cover to al Qaeda in Syria, and various other militants in Syria. Militants that we want to stay over there in a nice war.
JA (Middlebury, VT)
There is a deeper question here, and that is why, across cultures, so many men seem to need violence to enhance their sense of self? Like the Irish before them, these terrorists are little men who use violence to make themselves feel powerful. On a smaller scale, Trump is promoting the same thing at his rallies--real men put people in their place with violence. Americans face one mass shooting incident after another, with far more dead in a year than Europe has seen from terrorism. In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings in the US, with 475 people killed and 1870 wounded. If that happened in a terrorist attack, we'd be calling for foreign heads to roll. But, in America, little men are allowed to have any gun they want, so they can prove what 'big' men they are and get 'respect.' Maybe it's time to think more deeply about what it really means to be a man.
Reginald A Willoughby (Toronto)
Mr. Cohen, please include in your next column castigating President Obama for lassitude in containing Islamic State terrorism your rationale for excusing the European Union for not elbowing its way past him. The Europeans don't shoulder their share of responsibility and you seem to give them a free pass. In other words, why is your condemnation of "the West’s ponderous wait-them-out approach" directed at the American President but hardly at all at the EU leadership?
Esteban (Los Angeles)
I believe the Chinese are able to shut down Google and iPhones and other electronic communications resources. Why can't we jam those electronically in Syria and Iraq. Let them communicate with letters sent by mules. The terror will slow down until it stops dead in its tracks.
MTA (Tokyo)
With all due respect, Mr. Cohen, you should retract this column. Simply write, "I did not mean to place the blame on President Obama like some demagogues. Solutions to these problems are difficult and likely to take a very long time and we must remain patient."
JPE (Maine)
Our "nuclear umbrella" doesn't seem to work against ideologies, and no amount of dollars spent on bullets is going to defeat ISIS. The Danes seem to have awakened to just what's in store. Europe needs a convulsive change in thinking if it is properly to deal with this crisis.
Paul Katz (Vienna, Austria)
This seems one of the more silly "U.S. military bully" opinions. Raqqa is not Tora Bora - will the West be better off with the pictures of 1000s of Sunni civilians killed by US missiles? US troops on the ground will be an immediate enemy. Regardless of how much the IS fighters are hated, locals will hate US troops on Syrian ground even more. The dreams about locals happily cheering US "liberators" should be definitely over after Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
CMH (Sedona, Arizona)
So -- what would you have Obama do? We know everything in your column; so does Obama (and undoubtedly much more). "Ponderous?" The animals unleashed by Bush's wars will take years to tame, and yes, many will suffer in the US and in Europe. I'm not saying Obama has it all just right -- who knows? -- but his calibration is as good as any alternative policies even on the horizon.
Nathan Farbman (Phila Pa)
Im not certain , if asked, Mr Cohen has a specific plan of attack to address this situation, however, he lays it out there, for even simple minded analysts, that much can be done proactively, as some would say. We are already engaged militarily, though Obama does not want to discuss that, nor does he want to face the results of his non-action that has resulted in continual dying (what red line?) and an immigrant crises beyond imagination that threatens European stability. Mr Cohen has been an excellent source of information and interpreter of events, and I do not take his journalism lightly.
Marc Schenker (Ft. Lauderdale)
I would agree with T. Muller below. We have tolerated Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist madrassas long enough for the sake of oil. When Obama suggested they bear more of the burden in his "free riders" address, they characteristically responded with their usual intransigence. There is ample evidence that they are a major cause of terrorism worldwide. Do we need the oil anymore? Can we stop selling them military hardware and personnel to train them to use it? Or maybe I'm not seeing "The big picture."
WimR (Netherlands)
One doesn't need to search much on the internet to see that there are a lot of people who don't trust the commitment of the US to get rid of ISIS. This includes regular reports from Iraq of people who claim about mysterious contacts between the US and ISIS, including weapon dropping and evacuating ISIS leaders.

It is not hard to see indirect evidence for those claims. Some US officials keep proclaiming their commitment to get rid of Assad - while it is clear that a fall of the Syrian government would mean a victory for ISIS.The US was mysteriously absent during the ISIS attack on Palmyra where it easily could have made a difference. And it started only to attack the ISIS oil revenues when Russia had started to do so. NATO support for known Al Qaeda leaders during the Libya war doesn't inspire confidence either.

Behind this could be the Israeli lobby. Israel's former ambassador Oren is regularly giving lectures where he equates Assad's presidency with Iranian control over Syria and then claims that for Israel's interests it is better to have ISIS in Damascus.

AIPAC has just once again demonstrated its power. We should fear its influence when it comes to ISIS.
benjamin (NYC)
We waged war at great cost and expense in Tora Bora only after we were viciously attacked. While we were somewhat successful we are still dealing with the remnants of that as well as the morass that is Afghanistan. This is an even more elusive and embedded enemy. Millions of young American Men and Women on the ground to what end? At what cost in lives, in treasure and PTSD? The true problem is we have never truly confronted the real sponsors and breeders of terrorism, the Saudis and the other Arab countries who export it , bankroll it and fuel the anger and rage that breeds Jihadists. We have pretended they are our allies in the war on terror and a means to maintain peace and calm in the Middle East. IN truth the Saudis have fed terror throughout the world and are a greater existential threat to Israel and its security than Iran ever was. Until we confront, call out and prevent the double standard applied to the Saudis we will continue to read about tragic and fatal attacks in Europe, the Middle East and I fear the USA.
ilhan (Istanbul)
Money. They wanted Saudi contracts. Britain and France have stuck close to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. Western leaders have never had to pay any political price for their role in Syria and Libya.
Al-Qaeda is expanding in Yemen. ISIS is a growing power in Libya.
Save your children.
Herman Hiel (Everberg, Belgium)
After 9/11 an American told me: you can't bomb an idea. War might defeat ISIS in the Middle-East. However, the terrorists live where they want in Europe. Open borders make it easy to travel and to relocate in Europe. Most of the terrorists that carried out the attacks in Paris were French nationals, living in Belgium. Paris is an easy 2-3 hour drive by car from Brussels. Belgium/Europe has been soft on terrorisme and fundamentalism. Policing might reduce the risk of terrorist, to erradicate terrorism will take different methods and a long time. I hope I'm wrong as I am a Belgian and live and frequent the sites that were struck.
A. Tobias Grace (Trenton, N.J.)
The conflict between Islam and the West has very deep historic roots. It can be directly traced all the way back to when the first Arab diaspora captured vast amounts of territory from the Byzantine Empire and at last overwhelmed Constantinople itself. The crusaders carried the fight back to Islam with the utmost brutality. Islam carried it back to the West with the siege of Vienna in the late 17th Century. In the 19th Century, Europe came to dominate the Middle East. In the early 20th Century, the Turks committed genocide against the Armenian Christians. ISIS and what happened in Paris and Brussels are simply the latest evolution in this on-going struggle. Perhaps we need to consider that there may not be a good solution to this ancient conflict -that there will not come a time when we all sit down together as fellow human beings. Another poster on this thread made a thinly veiled reference to dropping a nuclear bomb on ISIS - a "Carthegenian" solution. That would be the ultimate escalation of horror and would obviate any remaining claim to moral superiority. Perhaps the only answer is to give them what they want: a region of the Middle East where they are left utterly alone to regress into their own dark ages.
tequila (Woodside, NY)
Roger Cohen writes this from Spain. Strange that he does not mention the Madrid train attacks of 2004, where 192 people were killed and over 1,800 injured.

At the time there were over 120,000 US troops occupying Iraq and 30,000 in Afghanistan. No terrorist sanctuaries inspired jihadists then. What did inspire them? What began this wave of jihadism?

That's right, a Western invasion of Iraq. Cohen apparently has forgotten all his articles condemning the Bush Administration fantasy that jihadism must be crushed by Western troops invading and occupying Muslim lands. On the contrary - this is jihadism's goal. This is their fantasy and their great recruiting tool.

Jihadism preaches that Islam and the West are at war. When Western troops invade Muslim lands, we prove to the great majority of Muslims that the jihadists have a point.

Osama bin Laden dreamed of drawing the US into Afghanistan and defeating us there like the Soviet Union. ISIS, the unholy spawn of Bush's Iraq invasion, openly states that they want to draw us into Syria so they can defeat us there.

Cohen's response? Let's give the jihadists what they want!
Mark (Ohio)
Huh? Obama is the cause of this???? And having a bigger presence in the Middle East is going to cure things??? Up to this point, the terroristic events in Europe were home grown. My guess is that this has nothing to do with religion (although it is convenient to include it as a motive). As Micheal Ware points out, by having a presence in Syria and Iraq we just aggravate the situation - for every person killed we incite others to get involved. There are too many people with nothing to lose and nothing to do except fight.
Timothy Bal (Central Jersey)
Don’t blame President Obama for this latest ISIS attack on Europe. Blame the liberal pundits (that includes you, Mr. Cohen) for advocating the mass migration of Muslims into Europe, and blame Europe for not having a muscular foreign policy and a very weak and inept military.

ISIS and the Middle East are Europe’s problem, not America’s problem. The same is true of Russia: it is Europe’s problem, not America’s problem.
William Keller (Havre de Grace, MD)
Patience with prudent use of all murderous applications against the jihadist structure, participants, bankers, mullahs and royals would be the only medication against a god gone toxic. Quarantines around the concentrations of this religious Ebola are now appropriate until the antibodies and white cells of Islam grow and consume this menace to Allah from within. Then there shall be no more the sound of injured children crying in airports and subways.
Thomas Renner (Staten Island, NY)
I can not see how a ground war in Syria can stop this. We have people who have been brainwashed by the Islamic State acting alone or in small groups willing to blow themselves up. If we invaded Syria and took full control as in Iraq, then what? I have no answer for this however after our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan I believe a ground war is not it.
Timothy Bal (Central Jersey)
“the president does not say when victory will come against these forces he declined to identify, and time counts.”

Mr. Cohen, President Obama does not have a crystal ball.
JD Wilson (Illinois)
It is about time we step up our current plan and hit this nasty terror group where it hurts. How much more are we willing to watch?
These guys don't play by the rules, it is time to let them know that we don't either.
Timothy Bal (Central Jersey)
The attacks in Brussels yesterday will add to Mr. Trump’s support, and also make his ideas on fighting terrorism more popular.

Exactly what does ISIS want, and what is their biggest vulnerability, their softest spot? What is the one thing that would hurt the leaders of ISIS?
amboycharlie (Nagoya, Japan)
The Neocons and Bush Cheney started this fight and could not finish it. Now they blame Obama for what happened in Paris and Brussels because he took a more cautious approach militarily than Bush. These attacks are Europe's problem, due to the way they treat Muslims there, not our problem. And they are Europe's problem to resolve. ISIS has been very good at infiltrating foreign lands with people with no clear connection with Jihadist activism or terrorism. If they can do it in Europe, despite the high alert, they can just as well do it here. Not provoking them, and not responding to their provocations in a predictable way is a better policy than anything the neo-conservatives have so far devised.
Shim (Midwest)
Daesh was previously known as the Al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula was created after the 2003 invasion. Now they are morphed to so-called IS. Iraq invasion was the worst blunder of the 21st century and where are those neocon now?
David Gregory (Deep Red South)
Islamists in Brussels killing innocent people is a police problem in Belgium- not a national security issue for the United States.
Jeremy (Berlin &amp; Chicago)
Mr. Cohen, can you tell us something about this situation that we *don't* know? You seem ready to criticize the Obama administration's approach to the development of ISIS as too weak--"a very high-risk policy"--but apart from such grumblings, your column offers not a single concrete alternative.
Tony (Boston)
Thanks for the war pitch Roger, but we are not interested. Maybe you and your right wing buddies should go over there, join a militia and have at it if it means so much to you. Life is way more dangerous here in America. Drugs and gang violence are killing Americans - mostly poor people of color- every day here. Where is your outrage about home grown violence? It takes the lives of more Americans than anything Isis could ever accomplish. I say fix our own broken house before trying to fix the Middle East.
fortress America (nyc)
I would not quite 'blame' Mr Obama for "Brussels' even as I am... NOT a fan... of Mr Obama and blame him for everything including the plant blight in my apartment

The Brussels locals have made an ACTIVE choice to NOT implement a policy of ethnic identification and control, for their own reasons, some of which are incapacity/ incompetence, but, from here, are overwhelmingly ideological denial and rigidity.

Or, more likely, have surrendered into ritualism, security theater, the war having already been lost, certainly the initiative, by infiltration and demographic tipping

I blame Mr Obama not for his intentional pathetic insufficiency in ISIS-land NOW after the fact, but earlier in ISIS' etc build-up, and his intentional abdication and reversal of our victory, shaky as it was, inherited from Mr Bush and the now convicted and neutralized General Petraeus, his consistent advocacy of the worst of warrior Islam

The next attacks will be here, grandly bloody, spectacular carnage, and done by six people, 'who were known to authorities,' - have we not heard that too many times before,

As for the tripe that WE have created ISIS - Sep 11 was the date of Islam's last big defeat,. at Vienna 1683, and our 911 was payback, THEY remember the millennial tides of history even if we blame ourselves, and attack our own, this war is eternal and will go until the heat death of the sun

There is no surrender, no negotiation, no peace and no hiding, there is only war

Thus US elections
john Boyer (Atlanta)
It's not so much that Cohen posits going into Iraq and Syria with tens of thousands of troops to wipe out the scourge of ISIS - he's entitled to his opinion on these pages. But as the definition of insanity reminds us, doing the same thing over and over again when it's not working isn't going to get it done either. That's what Cohen and the host of drum beating GOP candidates would aspire to - a return to 2001 and WMD, except substitute ISIS for WMD. This time, by comparison to WMD, the threat is real, but is it a threat that's worth another 4,000 American lives, 13 years and counting of warfare, and trillions of dollars. No.

There are no foolproof remedies to stopping terrorism - there's also no proof that the Tora Bora region sanctuary wasn't a good one for 10 years. Cohen needs to get his facts straight, and talk about something sensible. However ponderous he thinks the Obama approach to ISIS is, the terrorists are located worldwide, and there are thousands of them - just look at the 30K ISIS recruits in one year.

How does one identify which ones, like the San Bernardino killers, are the bad apples? It's not easy, if you want to run a democracy. So what are the options, Mr. Cohen?
Midway (Midwest)
Ah, Roger "I never met a MidEast war I didn't like!" Cohen advocates sending in American infantry.

Stop expliting the latest European tragedy, Mr Cohen and understand why the American people will never again let that happen...

All these wars, guns and bombings are not going to make us any more safe and secure against the terrorist's well-placed bomb in civilian society. We need to think like the Judeo-Christian country that we are: perhaps our overinvolvement in stirring the hornets' nests over there is the cause of our ramped up violent society.

Is more war the answer, or smarter, better targeted intelligence along with assimilation? Wouldn't it be better to stop bombing their homelands so that natives can begin to counter ISIS in their own homelands?

Is American military and weaponry really helping?
Ken (Staten Island)
American ground troops in the middle east - what a great idea! I would just impose two conditions on sending American troops anywhere: First, an across-the-board war tax of 3% on all income, no exceptions. Second, a universal draft, no exceptions. Then we'll see if the American people think it's worth it.
Third.Coast (<br/>)
[[Belgium is an institutionally weak country suffering from poor intelligence and security coordination in the fight against a sophisticated enemy.]]

Yes. You might almost say it is a "sanctuary city" for terrorists.

The Belgians shrug and laugh at themselves over these structural weaknesses. Perhaps these problems seem a little less funny and quaint today.
Charlie (NJ)
These terrorists are in our midst, more so in Europe certainly than the U.S. They enjoy our freedoms and tolerances and actively use those attributes to plan these attacks against innocent people. Cohen may want to correctly attack Trump for his statements about the use of torture but I support Trump's position that we should stop Muslim immigration until and unless we have the right process in place to insure we don't invite what just happened in Brussels and Paris into our country.
Blue state (Here)
Sending another 3000, 4000 Americans to die fighting the latest pop up whack a mole jihadi group is a waste. Unless and until we are ready to take down Saudi Arabia (faster than the slow death of low oil prices), we should keep our mouths shut.
DIane Burley (East Amherst, NY)
The usually thoughtful and cerebral Roger Cohen has been replaced by a petulant and emotional one. ISIS is a guerilla organization, without an actual state. They hide in buildings -- scratch - they hide in communities within peaceful states.

To root out ISIS would you suggest we declare war on Belgium? I mean they clearly have a foothold albeit tiny. But Belgium is much closer to us than the Middle East is -- and a foothold there does threaten our allies and ourselves. So is that what you want? We bomb bomb bomb Belgium? What about the peaceful neighbors in Belgium? Would they just be collateral damage?

Your passion displaces reasoning.

ISIL is a cancer -- you don't kill the patient to cure the cancer. But the first step would be to surgically remove the Saudis from our allies -- unless they get their house in order.
wildwest (Philadelphia PA)
Of course we stand with our European allies against this terrible scourge. Of course we are shocked and deeply saddened every time radical Islamic terrorists find a way past our defenses and strike at the heart of who we are as a people and a civilization. But other than routing out these terrorist networks and bringing the perpetrators to justice what would you suggest? Carpet bombing Raqqa? Creating internment camps for Muslims in Europe and the United States? Policing Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. as Cruz has suggested? Halting the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. as Drumpf keeps suggesting? All of these sound like really terrible ideas that will only increase the divide between us and the Muslim world which is not what we need right now.

If we bring the fight to Raqqa is it going to be the just the U.S.A fighting alone again? Reliable allies are essential. We also need a viable plan to go in get the job done and get out. We do not need to find ourselves stuck in yet another Middle East quagmire. George H.W. Bush knew that when we fought the first Gulf War; a lesson that was entirely lost on his erstwhile son. In any Middle East conflict we need a viable plan for a limited engagement to accomplish a specific goal.

And what of our "allies" in Saudi Arabia who export the Wahabi ideology and insist on funding these terrorist cells? Time to stop coddling them and take off the kid gloves perhaps?
Eric (Fla)
How about some leadership on the issue? No, not mindless rhetoric but some real leadership.

For those of you that feel we are on the right path to combat jihadists and/or we should let Europe "handle it's own problem", we tried that approach before. The Nazi's came very close to an early "European State".

I'm not advocating American troops invade Syria or any other place right now. But we could be doing a much better job of showing leadership in the fight. Taking a more proactive role in working with other western governments to find ways to mitigate and eventually neutralize the threats posed by ISIS and other similar organizations.
Denis (Brussels)
The way to defeat IS is to welcome the Syrian refugees, protect the "free" areas of Syria against all bombing via a no-fly zone, and in general prove that we in the West are NOT at war with Islam, we are the good guys. We will win this "war" by making belief in the parallel universe in which IS tries to live - in which the West is at war with Islam - increasingly difficult for even the most ardent jihadist to credibly believe.

The attacks on Paris and Brussels are intended to convince us to keep bombing, to close our borders, to help move the world towards the bi-polar world that IS dreams of, in which they are the sole hope for Muslims. We must not fall into their trap.
verdae (SC)
Not a word in this piece asking what Europe is going to do about ISIS. Europe was struck, again. Syria is in Europe's backyard. Syrian refugees are overrunning Europe.


Nope. It is all about America failing as the Policeman of the World.
T.E.Duggan (Park City, Utah)
The Administration response to the criminal activities in the Middle East is not ponderous but measured and appropriate under the circumstances. The risk posed by those activities to this country are not enormous but slight. Get a grip!
acm (Miami)
As an apocalyptic sect, ISIL encourages the Armegeddon vision of "Western" troops led by the U.S. at its doorstep. This doesn't mean that it shouldn't happen but it must be done in way that doesn't inspire more jihadist movements. Raqqa, Syria is full of human shields.
Eric (Golden Valley)
And do what, Mr. Cohen? Sen our security forces to Europe, to help protect them? Send a large ground force to Syria? It is a terrible situation, but we cannot and should not presume to think that the US can fix every problem in the world. We can and are plying a role in defeating ISIS, but it will take time and the resources of many nations.
Fred Jones (Toronto, Canada)
Obama's approach to ISIS is better characterized as criminal neglect.

He embarrassed himself and his nation by his supreme indifference doing the wave at a baseball game in Cuba, hours after innocent civilians, including reportedly at least one young American, were blown apart, wounded, and maimed for life.
Jacques (New York)
Looks like the Brussels bombers were petty criminals already well known to police. This fits. Far from being motivated by religion, the ideology was not even skin deep - most were widely reported to use drugs and alcohol - police discoveries reveal that they lived on a diet of takeaway pizzas, Hollywood movies and rap music. A disturbing number seem to have been educated at Catholic schools.

The existence of the so-called ISIS Caliphate, or radical Islamic theology does not explain these acts of terrorism. We're not talking about coming from alien cultures - all were born and brought up in the West and had embraced much of its popular culture. They were integrated until they weren't. These events point to the fact that the caliphate was not working for them as something to build or aspire to. Their psychopathology is focused on destruction, revenge and exhibitionist extremism, not Utopia.

Military destruction of the caliphate will achieve nothing. If confronted by a superior army most would not fight but scatter - as happened in Iraq 2003. To where? Most likely back to their countries of origin. And then what? Better to keep them in one place and ring-fence them while we sort out the recruitment problem that knee-jerk Islamophobic reactions are sure to engender.

Armies fighting and killing Muslims may dismember the caliphate but will simply help them focus on what they really want - vengeful destruction. The psychological driver is Islamaphobia - not the boring Caliphate.
Ziv (New York)
The European union is fully equipped to police itself if it has the will to do so. We can send the FBI to help train the Belgians, or the French and Germans can help train them. The idea that we have to launch a ground war in the Middle East to prevent home grown terrorism in Belgium is absurd. It does point out the contradiction in Roger Cohen's worldview: complain about America (and Israel) being overly aggressive but when Europe sustains a terrorist attack then we quickly hear the complaint, 'Obama is weak!' I find it amusing that when these attacks happen in Israel, no matter how heinous and evil, the attackers are described as 'militants' but when they happen in the US or Europe they are called 'terrorists.' When thousands of Israelis die the Europeans don't shed a tear and sanctimoniously preach to the Israelis on their mistreatment of the Palestinians.Well, I do hope the Belgians have a moral reckoning about their 'occupation' of Muslim neighborhoods in Brussels and the 'understandable' rage of the Muslims.
Curt Dierdorff (Virginia)
ISIS is a problem, but to suggest that it is Obama's problem distorts your perspective. The US is not the policeman of the world, and it is not Obama's fault that Paris and Brussels experienced terrorists attacks. The real question is how do we put the genie back in the bottle that the Bush Administration let out with the Iraq invasion which unleashed the Sunni-Shia civil war across the Middle East. To go in and kill thousands of innocents in Raqqa as retaliation for Paris and Brussels seems incredibly stupid to me. That will not make things better and it will give a tremendous amount of propaganda material to ISIS which is an idea, not a territory. Perhaps the Obama team is smarter than you think. We tried quick, strong, and wrong before and it did not work.
norman (Daly City, CA)
War is not always a chess game. We don't need to overthink this problem. We know who the enemy is and we know where he is. Let's go get him. When another enemy emerges, we will deal with him too.
MSK (Merion, PA)
Cohen, what would you have the USA do? Send in the Army, Navy and Marines? Presently, that a is a job for the Europeans. We cannot afford to bail them out once again. Logistical support for Europe is best for our country.
E.H.L. (Colorado, United States)
Obama's question goes unanswered in this column. Defeat ISIS and then what? Didn't ISIS come from Al Qaeda in Iraq? And while Mr. Cohen gains "clear" messages from the attack in Brussels, I find no such clarity. Perhaps these attacks are more about the noose getting tighter - not so much an act of arrogance as desperation? My point is, we don't know. And to assert that an all out assault in Syria and Iraq will squash an idea seems ludicrous to me.
Bob 81 (Reston, Va.)
Is it time Mr. Cohen, to call in the marines? It's not "boots on the ground" but the same military force of young men and women who were continuos targets of attacks and road side bombings, well after we destroyed the Iraq army. "Mission Accomplished" did not lead to us being welcomed in the streets of Bagdad but evolved into years of bringing home the trickle of dead and wounded due to these individual attacks. The nation tired of this mislead adventure. Now we have ISIS, what are we to do?
As you indicate we can blame the president for his policies, but the only alternative to destroying ISIS is full scale military assault into the heart of Syria, hoping that the results will be better then the invasion of Iraq turned out to be. Do we do this alone or muster allied forces to join us. Can we get the countries in the middle east to get involved? These are but a few of the many questions that have to be discussed before we step into another quagmire. Or we can just continue to blame Obama.
Marian (New York, NY)
"Obama’s slow-but-steady strategy" is "not working" because it is A Big Lie. Consider 2 illuminating post-Brussels snapshots:

The first, the prez in Havana, on legacy-notching holiday, ranting about 19th-c colonialism as he fails to grasp the 21st-c war in front of his face. Asymmetric warfare requires only one consenting player. When terrorists declare war on you, you are perforce at war. He allocates a mere 50 PC secs to his erroneous call for non-profiling police action in the war's European theater in response to Brussels.

2nd snapshot, Clinton, urging PC above all else in response to Brussels. The "reckless uncorking of Lybia," as Friedman today put it, is owned by Clinton. Regional destabilization & unleashing of terrorism are a direct consequence of “Hillary’s War” in Libya. The Clintons are nothing if not consistent. Bill unleashed global terrorism in the form of al Qaeda. Hillary unleashed it as ISIS… & the Left wants to put this couple back in the Oval Office?

Recall Obama's promise: After the televised beheadings, Obama was forced by public outrage to up the ante from his delusional goal "to contain ISIL."

“We will degrade & ultimately destroy ISIL” he puffed, & then proceeded, rather expensively, to do neither. (The "ultimately" was a dead giveaway that his goal only "to contain ISIL" was unchanged.)

Post-Paris, he inserted the "ultimately" still: the generals said w/ a real offensive ISIS would be eliminated in weeks. And his Big Lie continues post-Brussels.
Donzi Boy (florida)
Belgium and Europe are paying the price of 30 years of neglect. Back in the good old days the only Europeans who had to worry about congregating in public were Jews. It was so convenient to blame the victims then but now it's everyone's turn. Ascribing the problem to poverty and alienation is just an excuse.
There is nothing that I could do today to convince my children to go out and kill themselves and complete strangers. In the end we have to accept that there is something wrong with Islam and Islamists. I don't know what it is but it has to be boxed in and quarantined.
Sharon5101 (Rockaway Beach Ny)
Obama could care less about terrorism, radical Islamic Jihad, or ISIS. However, a vengeful Obama felt he had to teach Chuck Schumer a lesson for voting against his Iran treaty by cutting New York's terrorism funding. This "adult in the room persona" Obama carefully constructed over the years has also worn thin. The passionate presidential candidate who had a whole nation chanting "Yes we can" has been replaced by a president who seems oddly detached from the reality of world events. I suppose being in your last year as president is akin to being a senior in college or high school--all the hard work is done and now you are free to coast along to the end. Obama's decision to go to a baseball game because that would teach the terrorists that they can't disrupt our lives is eerily similar to G W Bush's telling Americans to go shopping after the 9/11 attacks. Is there something in the water that makes our presidents become so indifferent when unexpected world events intrudes on their lives???
Rob Berger (Minneapolis, MN)
This series of attacks in Europe and the US is alarming to most people. But let's put in perspective. Europe saw many worse attacks during WWII. The West needs to respond, but knee-jerk military responses may create worse blowback. The military may have a role to play in responding, but this is not primarily a war in which the military can obtain a victory. The adversaries are mobile, don't belong to any nation-state and can change geography; they are within the US and Europe and outside the US and Europe. We can't blow up the world to save it from a few highly motivated fighters. Intelligence is required to infiltrate terrorist networks.
Harry (Michigan)
We could use nukes on the entire Middle East and still we would have radical Islam. We could ban all mosques and all immigration of Muslims and still the hate would perpetuate. Short of the whole world converting to Islam I don't know the answer. God I hate religion.
Wayne Griswald (Colorado Springs)
I have no idea what Cohen is proposing Obama do...send an invasion force into Syria so ISIS can leave a few suicide bombers to blow up US troops and move its operation to Libya or otherwise...this is the strategy ISIS wants the US to pursue, because it believes it can beat a conventional force and if you look at Iraq it would be very difficult to even achieve a stalemate.
Frank (Urbana, MD)
Irrational overreaction after a horrific attack is certainly understandable, but it is still overreaction. We're not dealing with sovereign nations. We're dealing with an ideology, which cannot be defeated with ground troops and bombs. Only by addressing the structural seeds of this awful ideology, things like extreme poverty, our support for totalitarian regimes in the region, the lack of educational opportunities, especially for women, do we stand a chance of combating this terrorism. This will certainly take time, a long time.
Carolyn (Saint Augustine, Florida)
Obama has been on the right path. Dragging America into another war will only give the terrorists power as it would give them legitimacy, and serve as a recruitment tool, and more importantly, economically weaken the United States.

The primary reason for this attack is Europe's idealism. As much as I appreciate idealism, European countries must become far more aggressive in vetting criminals and immigrants, close all the borders until a more rigorous and organized immigrant assessment is in place, and heighten scrutiny of neighborhoods that shield terrorists, even if it means changing laws of surveillance. I also believe that people found shielding terrorists in any way - even so much as knowing a name - should be - if foreign born - deported, otherwise, arrested and incarcerated.

War is not the answer. The military cannot fight a psychological problem. Only providing meaning to lives can alter ISIS' appeal, and certainly western meddling in the Middle East - which has already created this problem - is no solution.
XYZ123 (California)
Obama is done, Roger. You know that the final year of the second term has always been spent like an extended family vacation with plenty of world travel.
So, there's nothing you can do to push more wars.

None of this mess was necessary in the first place. The main theme of Obama's victory in 2008 was ending the perpetual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But instead he opened up several cans of worms with I,Olivia but tangent support of the Arab Spring that destabilized several solidly stable countries and resulted in hundreds of thousands in death and migration.

What happens in Europe should not be a surprise to anyone who can connect dots and draw cause and effect charts. Countries that supported the mess in the Middle East with money, military power and political propaganda were going to become prime targets of the jihadists. This is identical to the formation of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But eastern criminals do not think the same way like a capitalist society. That is, once our transaction is completed we go separate ways. No, they think more like mafia loyalty for life style. So once you create and support them you have to keep supporting them or annihilate them, but you cannot walk away thinking it is all done now. And these are words to the wise from world culture expertise.
eclectico (7450)
Thirty innocent people were killed in Brussels; hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed in the Iraq wars, and uncountably many throughout the Middle East. To me the statistics don't dictate war as a solution. I'll go along with Obama, at least he is searching for a solution, not spouting demagoguery.
Dart (Florida)
Will the unthinkable soon enter?

Like blowing away, off the face of the earth, several muddle east "countries"?

Too hard to figure a mid- and long- term strategy?
Even if a USA-led response again pushed back IS?
me (NYC)
Brave of you to disagree with the mainstream of commenters and release the personal attacks. Brave of you to speak your mind and actually state the realities of this world wide crisis and call Obama to task on the failure of his foreign policy. Everyone agrees that there is no easy answer, but there are predictable outcomes to our actions - or lack thereof. Unfortunately, only another attack as large as 9/11 will wake up the people who have their head in the sand as to the global intentions of radical Islamic terrorists and Daesh. I just can't get my head around my President going to a Cuban baseball game when an ally has mayhem in the streets and then saying that he had to because it was his job. We need a new job description.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
Yeah, that works (not). You think Trump can do anything but pretend to be bigger than he is and not deep down ugly? Cruz, who denies reality and would force his religion down our throats, while costing a bundle shutting down necessary services?

Petty dictators sound good, but they do a lot of harm.
Jett Rink (lafayette, la)
Oh how quickly we forget. There were people among us who understood what a preemptive strike in the Middle East would unleash. Now there are those who wish to escalate, which is about as wise throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out.

War is not the answer. Only love can conquer hate. The question should be, is it too late? I don't know the answer, but I do remember whose "steady hands" voted to invade Iraq. That vote should be unacceptable to anyone who advocates a more measured approach to solving this snowballing problem. Knee-jerk reactions are what go us where we are. We don't need any more of that kind of thinking. Why can't civilized people figure that out?
Fred White (Baltimore)
Well, we see that terrorism works like a charm on Cohen. Thank God Obama is made of sterner stuff. Since when has it not been obvious that the central goal of Bin Laden before, and ISIS more recently, has been to drag America into unwinnable, absurd, very expensive wars that lead to endless occupations after initial "victory" (yes, if we leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will quickly retake the country and the jihad will have an even better "foothold" than ever; shall we dribble away trillions in our futile fight there in perpetuity to prevent this?)? Obama's been the adult in the room refusing to play this idiotic game, which W our child president bungled entirely. Now we're faced with the prospect of a Cruz or Trump demagogue taking Obama's place, either being a leader whose entire testosterone-poisoned ego is tied up with looking "tough." This is just what ISIS and the jihad have been waiting for. What if the jihad is a terminal cancer that will metastasize and kill you much faster the more aggressively you "fight" it?
Dennis (New York)
Get used to it. This is the world we now inhabit. Enemies of the Western World have existed forever. But they didn't have the means to do anything about it. What we face now is a new highly sophisticated form of guerilla warfare.

The Vietcong had to employ unorthodox means to do fight our construct of conventional warfare. Our new enemies saw a opening. Attack US in our own neighborhood. It may not be catastrophic, like the kind we reigned upon them, but it would cause us to be terrified, afraid to go about our daily lives. A symbol emerged, to cause fear and loathing for an enemy who now had the ability to inflict both physical and, more importantly, psychological scars.

What President Obama and other World Powers have to negotiate is a re-configuration of how we fight these new wars. This is a new century, and new way we must fight. Every American at home and abroad must be more vigilant, more acutely aware of situations we find ourselves in.

Some criticize our government for being too intrusive in our lives, except when it comes to fighting terrorism. We citizens make impossible demands on the government to protect us from our very own shadows. It can't be done. It is incumbent upon each individual to do their part in making US safe. How do we fight terrorism? Every one of US, all the time, every day,
we are in it together. So, get to work, citizens.

Bill (South Carolina)
While I agree that Obama is not the strongest leader we could have, it is ridiculous to assert that it is America's lack of leadership that has lead the current situation, nor our sole responsibility to do something about it.

The free world has not been united against an enemy since WWII. Perhaps it is time for such a coalition again, but where are the European states willing to step up to the plate? What is NATO doing? Do we have strong leaders here or in Europe to stand and do something? No.

Many, including some Op-Ed columnists, decry our lack of leadership. We are not the only kids on the block with slingshots.
Mike BoMa (Virginia)
Mr. Cohen's frustration is understandable and shared. Terrorist attacks are brutal, bring random destruction and death and exploit the very characteristics of Western societies that we hold dear. But placing the blame on Mr. Obama is an ill-informed knee-jerk and misguided reaction that wants someone to do something to end the ISIL threat. It may seem to Cohen that only the US and our incumbent American president has the power to take conclusive action.

That's not true. Cohen cites specific facts that make Belgium a more likely target than not and, power aside, President Obama cannot exercise authority over Belgium or any other country. More broadly, Cohen faults Obama for not having prosecuted a more definitive military action against ISIL and its geographic base, apparently suggesting that such action would eliminate further acts of terror. Aside from implicitly allying himself with Cruz's "glowing sands" approach, it's unlikely that military action would conclusively end ISIL's terror attacks. AQ didn't stop after Osama's death.

Though the fear and anger induced by these attacks is palpable, this issue is exceedingly complex and not given to easy answers. Obama's approach, shared by other leaders, is to engage host governments and societies to prevent radicalization and terrorist actions at their sources. The US participates in this effort with its domestic "countering violent extremism" and intelligence sharing programs. This will be a slow, steady effort.
mrpkpatel (ormond beach florida)
Europe taken as a whole is roughly the size of usa in economy and population..why they can not defend themselves either by sending their troops to syria.. They have become too complacent and dependent on usa. we need to help them but not do the job for them
Woofy (Albuquerque)
Preventing Europe from killing Europeans is Europe's problem. All we ever hear from Europe is how dumb we are, how uncultured we are, how inferior we are and how superior they are. Good, now they can show their superiority by protecting themselves from the Arab invasion. We have enough problems of our own. See you later, European dudes. Won't miss you.
mkneller (rome italy)
Europe is much more than an EU bureaucracy. Brussels is not the heart of Europe. Europe has diverse poles for culture, politics and economies—that is its strength. With these regional centers of diversity, the Europeans will discover how to withstand the “hits,” with democracy.
riclys (Brooklyn, New York)
A fatal flaw in this analysis is that it posits a problem without a cause, a fallacy indulged in by most western commentators and politicians. The U.S. and its European allies created ISIS and other jihadi groups to be the proxy spearhead in regime change in the region. The once-stable and thriving nations of Iraq, Libya, and Syria have been targeted by the west, primarily for the goals of maintaining U.S. hegemony in the region and bolstering the security of the Jewish state. This agenda has led to the destruction of villages, towns, cities, and countries, not to mention the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Mr. Cohen, of course will not bemoan the vast numbers of dead in these countries, but will wring his hands at European deaths, and reflexively denounce as "barbaric" the murder of hundreds of European civilians. By invoking Raqqa, he seems to be calling for the obliteration of that city/stronghold. No mention of the civilians there. As for the refugees becoming a Trojan horse, the west only has itself to blame for setting in motion the forces that have brought terror to its doorstep. The more the problem of ISIS is seen as something to be smashed and destroyed, the greater the degree of blowback and the metastasizing of terror. This is the dance of death into which ISIS has ensnared the U.S. and its allies. The core of the problem is western interventionism and the maintenance of a nuclear-armed Israel as regional hegemon. These factors must not be ignored.
G. Talbot (Lancaster, PA)
Another painful, in your face reminder that Mr. Obama's method in countering the terrorist offensive is not working.
It's getting tiresome to hear we gotta - we gotta, and not do what must be done for fear of offending the base.
For all of Mr. Obama's talents, what's needed and what he clearly lacks is the ability to develop and maintain relationships with his counterparts abroad. In order to do so, he would have to use salesmanship which is clearly beneath him. Who can he call to have that Bush 41-like conversation. Keep in mind, this is exactly his problem with congress; when your first 2 marriages fail and your 3rd is heading the same direction, it's you.
No one wants to see another war, however , a coalition of the planet's best trained special ops working under US command clandestinely would be far more effective especially in lives and $$. Surgical strikes in the shadows with a few dead, high ranking jihadists appearing here and there will certainly give pause to those who wish to make the choice of the dark side.
Julie Fisher Melton (maine)
Why is no one even mentioning Vilvoorde, an area of Brussels that is heavily Muslim but has had none of its young men leave for Syria since 2014? The community, led by the mayor has a strong, inclusive program to support at risk youth though community deliberations . I agree that Roger Cohen is not suggesting any solutions other than military intervention. What if the EU were to encourage and support such efforts on a widespread basis?
Peak Oiler (Richmond, VA)
I would suggest the time is nigh for dropping leaflets on Raqqa. They will give the populace 72 hours to leave the city. No one, armed or not, would be harmed.

Then we use our 100+ B-52s and B-1s to erase that capitol of hatred in wave after wave of area attacks. We should pay particular attention to any religious sites holy to ISIS. Then their followers will see that the End Times they want have come, but to their capitol.

This is a slow motion WW III, and we are going to have to fight it with the determination that destroyed Hamburg, Berlin, and Tokyo. If ISIS has no infrastructure and cities left, they will be discredited. It is awful to ponder and will kill civilians, but there it is. This is total war.
AynRant (Northern Georgia)
Once again, Mr. Cohen, what is the alternative? Give us a hint at how to negate the "appeal" of ISIS to young people who wish to maim and kill, and are willing to sacrifice their own lives to join in a blood sport.

Would Western occupation of the miserable backwater Raqqa defeat ISIS and diminish the terrorist appeal? I doubt it. Could a massive propaganda effort convince young radicals that Western-style living is exciting, adventurous, and passionate? Probably not, since Western video games and action films betray the appeal of violence and slaughter to bored youth.

Let's not wring our hands over problems with no solutions; let us reconcile ourselves to the immutable laws of nature. Our own destabilization Of Iraq and Syria has let the genie out of the lamp!
George Fowler (New York, NY)
Short-sighted and Hillary-synced, Mr. Cohen, you ignore the whole question of whether or not the USA should be and can afford to be the world policing force going forward. The answer btw is no and no. Like the British in prior centuries, we do it because it is in our interest to be the most powerful not because it works or is best for the world of humans. Certainly not because it eliminates pain and suffering.

What you call 'capitulation' is actually the reflection of significant change to the world (dis-)order. Change always brings pain to those who cling. The world must get onboard with the fact that there is one world, that humans are overwhelmed by competing (self-)interests. That humans must attune to an essential nature overwhelmed by inflexibility and vitriol.
tdom (Battle Creek)
Steady Lad. That clock is in your head. If a handful of dead-enders from the isolated projects of Europe, become an existential threat to the Union, than it wasn't much of a union. What happened yesterday was tragic for those involved, but minuscule in the expanse of time and history. In fact it likely indicates that the security services have been so successful lately (i.e. the capture of Salah Abdelsam) that the connected members felt the need to act before they themselves got rolled up. These guys will soon go the way of Bider-Minhoff, and Carlos the Jackal.
MadMax (The Future)
Before we try a massive invasion on the ground, I say we *completely* level Raqqa - way beyond 'carpet bombing'. It will kill a good portion of their leadership, demonstrate the gloves are off, and deny them some important freedom of manuever. As to those opposed to the collateral damage, I would justify it using the same calculus that we used with regard to Japan and the use of atomic weapons in 1945.

However, we keep ignoring another key factor behind a lot of global unrest and extremist versions of Islam - Saudi Arabia and the money they use to fund terrorists. I truly hope the next POTUS takes the gloves off with them as well, and reminds them they only keep control of their oil as long as we decide to let them.
petey tonei (Massachusetts)
It is this precise feeling of helplessness that you emote in this column, that for centuries, inhabitants of countries who fell prey to colonialism and imperialism, felt. Worse, their own rulers worked hand in glove with the colonist and imperialists. Now in 2016, European countries who were once colonial masters of continents far away, feel belatedly the sorrow of aggression, violence and terror. The saddest thing we are witnessing through history is the act of human beings killing each other, unable to feel the common ness of humanity. Each side reacting violently and vengefully. Wrongly or rightly, the terrorists react to perceived loss of their cause's (extreme Islamism) dignity, humiliation.
Bevan Davies (Kennebunk, ME)
Mr. Cohen, I disagree. We can "carpet bomb" the Middle East, as one Republican candidate suggested, and we can send in 500,000 troops, but that will not stop the appeal of radical extremism.
Joe (Chicago)
"In Brussels, Europe Is Struck at Its Heart
It is not working. President Obama’s slow-but-steady strategy to defeat the Islamic State is clawing back a little territory in Syria and Iraq but is doing nothing to dent the charismatic appeal of the militant group, disrupt its propaganda or prevent it from killing Europeans."

You're twisting this into faulting Obama's foreign policy?
Shame, Roger. Idiotic, Roger. Twisted, Roger.

If you're going to fault the policy of an American president (and vice president), have at that of Bush and Cheney.

Right now, American boots would just be gasoline on the fire.
Moderate (Vermont)
Roger Chen has joined the fearmongers. The truth is, there are going to be attacks and deaths from terrorism, in the US and elsewhere. Does that mean we have to react in panic with no thought to disastrous consequences? Defeating or defusing terrorist movements takes time (the IRA for example) but has to be done judiciously. In the end the only way for terrorism to end is for there to be no more terrorists. You don't achieve that by killing a few of them; you have to help create a situation where no one wants to join them.
Tom Carter (Williamsburg VA)
Really, was Tora Bora so successful? More like the botch job Cohen refers to in Libya. We hired Afghans to blow up some caves and we didn't even have the foresight to police the exit routes into Pakistan when the Taliban and Qaeda left to run their war from the territory of our so called ally, Pakistan.
Of course, by then, Bush was more interested in goin' after that guy in Iraq who tried to kill his dad, and Cheney was working to get Halliburton and Exxon back in the driver seat in Iraq. And we all got to argue about whether or not the "surge" worked.
Then by the time the surge worked well enough for the Bush administration to extricate itself from Iraq (they signed the Status of Forces agreement, not Obama) the Bush team had moved on to prepping for the Lehman Brothers collapse and all that followed. Sure they did.
Does anybody remember any of this lunacy? We better think about it a lot.
RWS (Ny, NY)
As I am reading some of the previous comments , I am appalled at how defeatist most of them look. There is no doubt in my mind that these terror organizations need to have safe havens and territories in order not only to recruit but also to train those poor souls that will carry out their horrible tasks. Even worse, by not doing anything to crush them , we are giving the muslim youth the illusion that they are successful in their grim and horrendous mission of pseudo holy war. If you destroy a weapon factory to the ground, there will be no more weapons manufactured. It is as simple as that. If you destroy ISIS , they simply won t have the capacity to supply anyone with weapons or train them to kill. It is as simple as that. So for all the minutes of silence , and the peace demonstrations that show that most people are against terrorism , we need to show that we are all so much against it that we will defeat it and not tolerate it like the cancer that it is . And not bomb Rakka between 10 pm and 4 am when we know that nobody is in the facilities . Obama has been leading a reluctant war against it, and whatever his reasons are , it is obviously not working . Worst of all , a similar bombing on US soil just before the presidential election would certainly sway its results, just like it did in Spain after the Atocha bombings. It seems like while Obama is sipping his mojito in Cuba , Rome is burning.
Bob Peterson (My living room)
Cohen is of course right, we should (if we are able) defeat ISIS as quickly as possible. "What happens next?" Obama asks. (Funny; it's a question he didn't ask when he intervened against our most important Arab ALLY in the war on terror, and which had also stopped their nuclear weapons program -- that is, Libya.)

But ISIS is not the greatest threat; violent jihad is not the greatest threat. The greatest threat is peaceful jihad, where the institutions of democracy are used to the subvert it.
John C (Massachussets)
Roger criticizes Obama for not defining victory--yet he does not define it,or suggest a plan for victory. Roger, where is your plan?

The Islamic State is a meme that lives on the Internet, and it should be painfully obvious that individual miscreants, crackpot conspiracy loonies, foolish adolescents have no other place to sustain their fantasies. We will have to rely on the police and FBI to stop the San Bernadinos and other domestic terrorists. That's not going away.

As for the actual gang of thugs in Racca who are a real threat (and who, by the way have yet to hit us in the U.S.--give Obama some credit for that unless you're a Republican), they will be defeated when their territory is clawed back block by block, house by house.

Even if, as Senator McCain wants, we deployed 10,000 troops embedded with the mythical force of 90,000 troops from ???? Islamic nations in the neighborhood for a full-scale offensive --it would take a diplomatic and logistical miracle to accomplish in less than a year.
Unintended consequences and perverse outcomes are the only givens in this part of the world.

A frightened, ginned-up, hysterical polity can only be fooled once a generation--that card got played by Bush and Cheney. I and most thinking citizens of the U.S. And Europe prefer to live with the current uncertainties and a steady, improvisational and pragmatic approach to defeating ISIS. Crying "capitulation!" is the worse form of demagoguery.
Dick Hughes (Plainfield, NJ)
Why fret over the neocons who want to carpet bomb Syria when you have a neocon in sheep's clothing to promote. however obliquely, a U.S.-led ground war that would cost thousands upon thousands of lives, billions of U.S dollars, give ISIS what it wants to declare it a war on Islam and do nothing to deter radical Islamic extremists from causing havoc around the world. Obama's caution is not ponderous; Cohen's rhetoric is shallow and careless.
cjp (Berkeley, CA)
By Mr. Cohen's logic, we should have invaded the communities that led to the Oklahoma City bombings, which was an act of terrorism. Oh wait those were US Citizens. In fact, some of the perpetrators of these attacks were not Syrians, but European citizens. We will not combat terrorism by dropping bombs on Syria, but create a whole new class of terrorists in the wake. If we want to try to stop these attacks, we should at least start to try to figure out why they occur, who is likely to commit them, and, possibly, look at what policies the US and Europe maintain that contribute to the problem. This is something for intelligence agencies and diplomats, not soldiers.
Janis (Ridgewood, NJ)
Just a matter of time until some U.S. city is hit and Obama will preach we should all be able to get along. He refuses to acknowledge Islamic jihadists. Isis is not going to disappear.
jwljpm (Topeka, Ks.)
My kid was sent to Afghanistan to fight the fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda and came back alive, thank God, but with a disability. So Al Qaeda has morfed into ISIS and attacked Europe, and the right wing is again calling for kids to fight the terrorists. No thanks. Belgium was attacked, most likely, because of its unusually lax internal security and its cultural insistence of segregating groups of people into small clusters of neighborhoods. The individuals responsible were known criminals who had been allowed to travel freely to Syria and return. Having troops on the ground in the Middle East would not have stopped the attacks in either Paris or Brussels. Let's try preventing the obvious first and improving the intelligence capacities of the European countries before escalating into a situation where the lives of own on the line.
James (Houston)
If you don't want the terrorists to win, you decimate them militarily and then do not allow them into the country. Ponder this: Life in the USA without TSA, metal detectors or full body scanners would be possible if you block entry to the US by Radical Muslims and secure the borders. The open borders allowed by Obama with his radical left wing agenda to " fundamentally change America" is changing how we must live and is ruining the country. We need to stop letting these animals effect our lives and dictate the wait times at the airport. It is time for a NON-PC approach to the problem because the PC approaches from Obama's fantasy land were never going to work.
DIane Burley (East Amherst, NY)
The usually thoughtful and cerebral Roger Cohen has been replaced by a petulant and emotional one. ISIS is a guerilla organization, without an actual state. They hide in buildings -- scratch - they hide in communities within peaceful states.

To root out ISIS would you suggest we declare war on Belgium? I mean they clearly have a foothold albeit tiny. But Belgium is much closer to us than the Middle East is -- and a foothold there does threaten our allies and ourselves. So is that what you want? We bomb bomb bomb Belgium? What about the peaceful neighbors in Belgium? Would they just be collateral damage?

Your passion displaces reasoning.

ISIL is a cancer -- and you don't kill the patient to get the cure. But what we could do is surgically remove the Saudis from our allies -- unless they get their house in order. This is something for which I do hold this and prior administrations accountable.
Chase (US)
Mr. Cohen is clear and forceful about what not to do: whatever we're doing. As to what to do, he has that covered as well: "There are no easy answers."
uwteacher (colorado)
The real problem is that there is no "there" there. There is no standing army to destroy. Terrorism is a tactic, not a thing. It is how war is waged without an army. All that is needed is two or three or ten people willing to die for their cause and there will always be enough of those.

Terrorism is effective, not because it causes massive losses but because by killing a few dozen people, they can shut a capitol down, raise their profile, increase the power of their leaders, and appear as virtual supermen to their followers.

Sorry Roger, but a million boots on the ground will not stop this. I know that's the Israeli way, but learn from Iraq. The US thrashed the standing army but all those IED's and car bombs did and still do keep the conflict simmering.
Joseph Huben (Upstate NY)
Should America attack the headquarters of Wahhabi terrorists? Should Obama seize the assets of Wahhabi sympathizers, and supporters of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban? Should the President declare war on all corporations that do business with the Wahhabi caliphate?
redmanrt (Jacksonville, FL)
"The dangerous thing about this territory, which the group calls a caliphate, is not so much its oil revenue..."

Take away its oil revenue, and it will collapse. If we put boots on the ground we could do it in a couple of weeks. If we had left troops in Iraq, the mini-Caliphate would not have come into existence.
Bruce R (Oakland CA)
What no one wants to admit publicly is that this conflict is a religious and cultural conflict. Liberal values prohibit us from taking an effective strategic position. It's that simply. And this is not easy me to say because I am a liberal.
LVG (Atlanta)
Excellent article.Cohen is spot on.
Unfortunately both ISIS and Trump had a great day yesterday. Every terrorist attack is a cause of celebration and increased poll numbers for the wannabe fascist. Hilary continues to be seen through the lens of Benghazi as a terrorist apologist.
Obama has a done a lot to combat terrorism and killed more terrorist leaders than any past president. He is also the first president to openly challenge the US relationship with the Saudis who export radical jihadism through their Wahabi dominated mosques.
The optics yesterday of the President having a great time at the ball park with Castro were bad and no different that Bush reading My Pet Goat while the Towers fell.
We need a shock and awe or Dresden approach to show the world we are serious about wiping out ISIS even if it means helping Assad. Time is running short. Biden needs to jump in and run or Trump will be the next President if ISIS continues to attack civilians around the world.
Tom Barson (East Lansing MI)
Mr Cohen states that the United States and Europe would not have accepted the existence of the Islamic State in 2001. He is obviously correct, but he neglects to predict or even mention the outcome of that refusal. He suggests at the end of his column that Raqqa is just another Tora Bora. Again I think he is correct, but without his realizing what he is saying. Raqqa is Tora Bora - and there are plenty more where Raqqa comes from if we decide to level it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cohen seems to scoff at 20% per year. But if it takes a Middle Eastern coalition 5 years to subdue the Islamic State, how will that compare to the length of time and would take us to conquer AND stabilize it? Compared to the latter, 5 years might look liker a pretty good number.
Paul (Ocean, NJ)
Mr. Cohen, I usually am in agreement with your Op-Ed columns and like reading them. You are way off the mark and you should have a rethink with this one.
As the saying goes, "be very careful what you wish for."
David Grant (Hinsdale, MA)
It sounds like Roger Cohen would appreciate Donald Trump's "strategy" vis ISIS.
smithji (Seattle)
If you want to defeat ISIS with troops then you and yours should be the first to go. None of the Viet Nam crap allowed. Every young person must be available to go and no excuses like Cheney did.
Mike Webb (Austin Tx.)
There really is nothing Obama,or the U.S. can do to stop terror in Europe. They need to put on their big boy pants and handle their own security.
LCleary (Ireland)
Defeating ISIS must now be seen as a world wide war and as such, every country in the world must come together to find a solution.

But, here's the thing I find very troubling. Where are the Muslim leaders who should be standing up to condemn these attacks? There are about 1.6 billion Muslims world-wide. They are not a loose group of people who follow a particular faith on their own. There are religious facilities, schools, social networks, neighbourhoods and communities who have powerful leaders. So where are they?

NOTHING is going to change until the people whom ISIS claim to represent stand up and say STOP. Once this happens we may perhaps begin to have a conversation not about how to 'keep Muslims out' but how we can all work together to help keep everyone safe.
Walkman666 (Nyc)
Not sure what the author is advocating here. We could, with Nato, send in ground forces to attack ISIS in their numerous locations, and still, nothing could change with regards to terrorism in Europe or the USA. We could build walls and prevent immigration, but unless we shut down the internet, that does not solve the problem of bad actors already in-country who are or become radicalized through propaganda. I think that mankind will always have violence in the name of religion and greed, and we have to continue to take the high road, leverage good policing and security, make it economically impossible for these factions to grow and survive, and know that eventually the small groups of terrorists fade away without a viable society and infrastructure. In the meantime, a lot of folks could get hurt, but there is no simple solution here to a spread out problem such as terrorism. How did our species evolve to be this way?
Steven (Marfa, TX)

So think about what the alternative might be, as others have said in the comments. Think about Israel.

Israel has engaged in a large-scale, systematic, "defensive" response against Arab resistance to its existence as an imposed, European colony since its inception in 1948.

What could have been a seed for democracy in the region, a humanitarian opportunity not just for Jews systematically murdered by the West, but for the entire region, has turned, as a result of constant "terrorism and counter-terrorism," into a symbol worldwide for authoritarian, totalitarian oppression of the poor by the rich.

And it's all too easy for us to blame those who attacked Israel.

Don't worry; I've read Exodus; I've read Babi Yar, and much more; I and my family have lived it all.

Do we want to turn the ongoing horror of what has happened between Israel and Palestine into a model for how the world at large is run? Are those of us outside the oligarchy meant, inevitably, for the giant, global concentration camp that Gaza is the beginning of?

What alternatives do you suggest? You, too, are aware of this history. Propose an alternative to Netanyahu as our future, because that way lies madness, violence, catastrophe, indeed perhaps the end of the human species.
Cwolf88 (VA)
Who is going to do all this? 15 years of war has worn out the military, both in people and equipment. Tens of thousands of wounded. A projected veteran healthcare bill of over a trillion dollars. Replacing all the equipment is likely higher.

We are deeply in debt. Almost half of those many trillions are war related.

The Lake City ammunition plant proposes ramping up production to 2 billion rounds per year.

Even if you defeat ISIS as an organization, how do you kill every radical?

You need a Plan B.
Hope Springs (Michigan)
So your first response to every world problem is "Thanks, Obama." What solution do you propose besides committing 30K American troops to another intractable war? Which, for the record, plays right into the hands of ISIS and their recruiting philosophy. I wish the Obama critics would offer something realistic for once instead of just trying to grab a headline with constant criticism.
Ronald (Long Island)
Wasn't invading countries what got us into this mess? What was that saying about the definition of insanity that Bill Clinton used to love so much? Is there nothing we can do to pressure countries in the region to clean up their own back yard?
Gate (Florida)
Cohen does not make sense. Belgium and European security against terrorism are the responsibility of Belgium and Europe. We can assist when requested but defense against terrorism is and always has been local. Cohen knows that. He should also know that defeating the Islamic State on the ground with US ground troops would have almost nothing to do with preventing terrorist attacks in Europe. Their multi-cultural societal risks are already in place and they will have to deal with them whether Iraq, Turkey and the Kurds collapse ISIS or not.
Trobo (Emmaus, PA)
Fascinating to read this in tandem with Mr. Bynam's editorial, also in today's opinion page. Yes, we're beating ISIS on the ground, but it's doing nothing to stop attacks like we saw in Brussels. I'd describe Mr. Cohen's strategy as 'tail wags dog'---as in their tail wags our dog.

These people are criminals, not soldiers, and need to be treated as such. To treat ISIS as some sort of nation state and its cadre of thugs as warriors is anachronistic, counterproductive, and plays right into their hands. This trope of 'we're not taking the fight to them' is a sucker's game. We ARE taking the fight to them, and we're winning.

But keeping these clowns from blowing up subways has more to do with rooting out their ideas---and making it clear just how horrible it would be to live under their ideal regime. This is, ultimately, a battle of ideas, and we'd do better to get ours out there than wringing our hands over not 'making the sand glow.'

The president was right to go to that baseball game in Cuba. Sure, it's trivial, but to do otherwise is just more of their tail wagging our dog.
Tony (New York)
It's a good thing that ISIS is the junior varsity. Imagine what the varsity would be doing. Besides, OBL is dead. Obama's mission accomplished.
Dino (Washington, DC)
If the US sends "boots on the ground" to defeat ISIS, those boots won't be worn by Mr. Cohen or his loved ones. That certainly wasn't the case with the Iraq debacle. It's always someone else's relative that has to die, right Mr. Cohen?
Raymond Maczuba (Haverhill MA)
Get a hold of yourself. The West while it looks weak and disorganized against a focused enemy that cannot destroy Western civilization, they need our help. Wise action may seem slow and ineffectual but measured responses is the correct course of action. This is a question of stamina and the long view. Look what it took the West to learn in the past 100 years; two ruinous World Wars. We can't instill Western thought and civilization into the Middle East leaders and population overnight but what we can do is offer them a better alternative than murder, jihad and chaos. We have got the experience-been there did that-lets use it.
Chris M. (Ithaca)
Barack Obama is not the president of Europe.
ptboy (NYC)
ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, whatever you call them are led by remnants of Saddam's military. So, what is Roger Cohen advocating? Putting boots on the ground to take Raqqa? Again?
If the armchair generals on Op-Ed pages have alternative strategies it's not at all clear what they are.
Middleman MD (New York, NY)
Mr. Cohen, the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 not because it was a brutal theocracy, but because it harbored Al Qaeda training camps. In retrospect, a good argument can be made that it was not wise to invade and occupy Afghanistan, given that the region (which can only loosely be called a country) has never been governable in its hinterlands. An invasion of ISIS territory would, in the long term, accomplish little more than "radicalizing" even more people who will not view us as liberators, but rather as "crusaders" whose presence they feel is both humiliating and an affront to their religious beliefs. Given that "radicalization" does not require that anyone travel to Iraq or Syria, and that attacks such as the ones in Brussels and Paris do not require arms or materiel that cannot be readily sourced in the EU, it would seem that the wisest choice is a cordon sanitaire. While terror may radiate from Raqqa, as you assert, what allows it to radiate into the capital of the EU, and into Paris is the presence in Europe of Islamists and fellow travelers sympathetic to the Islamist world view. A candidate like Donald Trump does not "feed" into Daesh's narrative nearly as much as Trump's rise is fed by the denial of those in the press to acknowledge this fact.
iamcynic1 (California)
Osama Bin Laden long ago realized that terrorism was the only effective weapon that fundamentalist islamic nuts had left.Military confrontation with countries that had massive air power,drones and a well armed ground force was not going to be successful.Terrorism is a 21st century form of warfare.It is more subtle....sowing fear among western populations and forcing them into political chaos.George W. Bush,if nothing else,proved that massive military intervention only worsened the situation for the west.Obama's policy has nothing to do with these attacks.His approach,trying to force Arab moderates into rejecting their fundamentalist brothers' barbarism,is our best hope in the long term.And terrorism is with us for the long term.
Robert Jennings (Lithuania/Ireland)
“A united Europe, the great achievement of the second half of the 20th century, is in imminent danger of fraying.”
• Europe is far from united. The European Nomenclature may be united in their ignorance of the effects of their policies but ordinary people are not united. The attack on Greece by the European Nomenclature following a vicious economic ideology which socialised Private Debt has set Europeans at war with themselves.

“The union is already fissuring as a result of a huge migrant flow from Syria and elsewhere, combined with an economic crisis.”
• Indeed it is, and when the ordinary man and woman in the street realise the extent to which the migration flow was caused by the actions of the European Nomenclature (e.g. destruction of Libya; provoking Civil War in Syria, kowtowing to Saudi Arabia) the overthrow of that European Nomenclature will not be far off. The ordinary man and woman in the street already know that Nomenclature was responsible for the economic crisis due to its embrace the Economics of Inequality.

“But today at least the West’s ponderous wait-them-out approach to the murderous fanatics of the caliphate looks like capitulation.”
• If the West chose to rein in Saudi Arabia much of the ISIS threat would disappear. However, the Saudi’s are such good customers of the Arms suppliers that the West will not touch them.

When will Roger Cohen propose something effective. More bombing in the Middle East will add to ISIS blowback?
Jack Potter (Palo Alto, CA)
The NYT is very interesting. So, today you publish and editorial that is very much anti-involvement, and then you allow two or three other opinions to suggest we should be involved. Then, if there is another attack in the US or another prominent European location, you remain holy and righteous. Either way, you win. Very clever, very political, and very cowardly. It is great to protect you own interests, but then tell that to the victims or their families.
Bunk McNulty (Massachusetts)
"The message was clear: We can still hit you at will." That's been the U.S. message in Yemen, where we routinely blow people up with drones (30 the other day). For the people of Yemen, we are the terrorists. What goes around comes around.
poslug (cambridge, ma)
How about those guns in San Bernardino, California? Made that attack real easy. And how did that San Bernardino "wife" aka terrorist get into the U.S. so easily? Was it a failure at the U.S. embassy screening her? It took five years for my nephew's wife from Sweden to get an ok so I have to wonder about the people working in that embassy. Since I know some people in that visa role, I can tell you many are not the brightest bulbs on the tree, many recruited under GOP presidents. But war as the solution won't protected us from San Bernardinos.
Marcko (New York City)
Here we go again. Terrorists attack the West, and armchair warriors put on their best John Wayne stances and shout in unison, "We need to go over there and get tough on those guys!" Never mind that every American administration since Ronald Reagan's (remember all the kids he got killed in Lebanon?) has tried and failed miserably at containing chaos in the Levant. We've been at constant war there for nearly 15 years; all we've done is increase the number of jihadis and disempower the few despots that could see the lid on this boiling cauldron. Does Roger Cohen and his neocon brethren really think that doubling down on this demonstrably failed strategy will bring any semblance of order to the region? And if it's so important to do so, why doesn't he and his ilk volunteer himself and his children to lead the charge?
ThomasH (VT)
IS is attacking Europe precisely because they are losing territory in the middle east. In other words, Obama's tactics of encirclement and slow strangulation are working. Europe is simply the softest target available for IS to vent its rage.
I'm getting the distinct impression from recent articles that Mr. Cohen is the sort of "Liberal Interventionist" who served as the Bush administration's useful idiots in promoting the Iraq debacle on allegedly human-rights based grounds. Do not listen to such people!
Susan Anderson (Boston)
Going in and ruining people's homes and countries is a sure recipe to encourage the young, the dispossessed, and the hopeless to join in the devastating "purity monster" of Daesh. If we are not prepared to help fix things, then we should not be going in and doing more damage.

The war of ideas is won with compassion and help, not with death and destruction.
Daniel A. Greenbum (New York, NY)
Al Qaeda, ISIS are murderous ideologues but they are not existential threats to America, Europe or the West. There needs to be a discussion about restoration of civil liberties lost after 9/11 and what to do about what is essentially an internal Muslim war with Westerners being caught in the crossfire.
ed powick (cape may,nj)
Syria has always had its rebels. Assad Sr. had put down rebellions there without compassion. When some of these rebels gained the ear of American regime changers America began to get involved surreptitiously supporting these rebels. This support has led to the present situation in Syria. We have created a festering sore. This in a part of the world we have created other festering sores. When will we stop destabilizing the world?
Eugene Windchy. (Alexandria, Va.)
Unfortunately, Europe needs American leadership. After the Charlie Hebdo attack we failed to attend the gathering of national leaders in Paris. After the Brussels attack the President flew to Argentina. In that void roams ISIS and Putin.
Strix Nebulosa (Hingham, Mass.)
So, Obama's approach is not working, at least not fast enough; therefore, a better approach would be...what, Roger? Send the US Army to invade Syria, reoccupy Iraq? Or maybe the FBI should take over all investigations in Europe, and the NYPD should patrol Brussels. This sounds like the old, familiar assumption that the U.S. really has the power to do anything, anywhere, and that means the president, as commander in chief. It is the old assumption, found from left to right, that every bad thing in the world is the fault of the U.S.: we either made it happen, or let it happen.
TH (Ipswich, MA)
You mention Obama's speech yesterday in Havana where he said: “We will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.” But you left out what he said next (and I am paraphrasing): "That the world needs to do this together."

First you lay the blame for ISIS at Obama's feet, totally disingenuous in itself, then you don't even listen to his arguments for dealing with the problem. I have to wonder if you just fall into the Mitch McConnell mindset where your perspective of our President is predetermined.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
So many warmongering sissy writers at the Times. Their columns define the debilitating nature of fear. Yet none of them are in our military; in fact, most never served their country in uniform, nor do they volunteer to take up arms against the enemies they identify time and time and time again.
So, what the west should be doing is whenever there is a terrorist act claiming lives and maiming innocent civilians overwhelming force should be used to kill the enemy members of ISIS in the Middle East with a surgical air strike on the sources of income eg the oil refineries and oil fields as well as the command and control centers around Raqqua and any other stronghold where we find a concentration of ISIS fighters If the so called caliphate wants a war with the west and it's soft targets we have to make the price they pay for each terrorist act more than they can stand And if that includes some collateral damage it has to be accepted
Rufo Quintavalle (Paris)
The US is carrying out military interventions in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan so it is not totally fair to lay all the blame at Obama's feet. One could lament the fact that he did not intervene earlier in the Syrian conflict - when it was still a popular uprising against Assad and before IS formed. I think that would have been the right thing to do but hindsight is a wonderful thing and for all I know it would have made things worse.

But ultimately the military defeat of IS is just part of the solution. There are any number of terrorist groups out there - Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabbab, Al Nusra - plus the earlier generation who are all still around - Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood. For all their sectarian differences they are nourished by the same totalitarian ideology of Islamism. The other totalitarian ideologies of the Twentieth Century are either dead or dying but Islamism is still going strong.

Europe and the US can carry on waging war against individual Islamic regimes but ultimately the ideological cause of the problem needs to be identified and defeated. There are virtually no centers of learning left in the Islamic world so I think this responsibility will fall on the shoulders of a few brave intellectuals within these countries who have the courage to speak out. They need and deserve the support of Western academia and the Western intelligentsia in disseminating their voices.
dEs JoHnson (Forest Hills)
It's not working? What does "working" mean? And now is it measured? How many Americans have died in Obama's careful approach? I thought you, RC, were of foreign origin, like myself. So I expected a more analytical and thoughtful approach. But perhaps you continue to be wedded to a Thatcherite policy of kill them now, kill them all, and let God sort them out.

American presidents conducted proxy wars for decades, wars fought to avoid the all-out conflict that would result from a head-on attack on the USSR. Was it working? Did you call for all-out war?

Western involvement in the Middle East goes back at least to the Crusades. George W. Bush infamously called his war in Iraq a "crusade" We're still paying the price. Haven't you noticed? How much more gasoline do you want to pour on the fire? As for Europe, they need to get their act(s) together. Nanny America needs to back off and stop perpetuating the cycle of dependency and guilt by association.
JimF (Portland)
By equating the unofficial capital of the EU with the "heart" of the EU, Roger Cohen unwittingly shows why the EU is ultimately doomed. The elites in Brussels created the Islamic crisis that threatens each and every EU country, they ignore the threat and rain invective down on anybody daring to utter the words islamic and terrorist in the same sentence. Individual countries are seeing what happens when you sign over your sovereignty to some unaccountable and faceless bureaucracy.
Rick Foulkes MD (Chicago)
The real underlying issue with ISIL is not Syria and Northern Iraq. Without at least 20th century rule of law barbarism in this case in the name of Islamic pretzel interpretation of jihad will fill this void. The appeal is powerful and time tested. The Faud family used the same ploy to subdue the Bedoins of the Saudi Pennisula and to say that family has done well would be an underststement. The leaders of ISIL can now afford a luxury lifestyle from abject poverty. If you would like to join them you will have the power to kill and torture, steal and sell items like ancient artifacts. Rape and slavery. Documented right here in the times.
So the question becomes how to blunt this appeal?
Certainly we view this as high crime and Roger advocates prosecution by our troops to decrease the easy choice to join the powerful and enriching movement that assures heaven.
Indeed we prosecute on a daily basis.
Only enlightenment that views our common interests as living inhabitants of this world and opportunity for millions of young people can blunt the drug that is jihad.
SALBLS (Red Hook, NY)
If Mr. Cohen wants to try something else perhaps he could tell us what that is. If it is a million US and allied troops in Syria, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere he should just say so and we can have that debate. Otherwise, he is just telling us what everyone already knows: this is a huge problem with no apparent solution.
Mark Roderick (Merchantville, NJ)
On the basis of the Brussels attacks, Mr. Cohen says "It is not working." This is a logical fallacy. There are casualties in war. The fact that there are casualties does not mean you're losing. Please tell us about a war in which the winning side suffered no casualties and took no risks.

Mr. Cohen gripes and gripes but never suggests a better strategy.
Bruce (Munich, Germany)
In other words, it is less risky to put boots on the ground because at least there's no risk of long-term success. It's much better to get involved in an intractable conflict and further destabilize the region, after all, we know exactly how to do that...
JT NC (Charlotte, North Carolina)
What is Roger Cohen's proposed course of action? If it's to put a large American ground force in Syria, then I say "things could be much worse." It is likely that more young American men and women will die in a month compared to the number of people who have been killed in recent terrorist attacks. And it has to be said, a ground invasion is what ISIS wants. They want to fight the final apocalyptic battle. This is likely to lead to MORE terrorist attacks, not fewer. It may not be emotionally satisfying, but the "slow and steady" course is clearly much wiser.
G. Sears (Johnson City, Tenn.)
The Paris attacks -- arguably the most iconic city on the European continent. Now Brussels, the seat of the EU government hit by two apparently linked attacks. Both certainly symbolic of the EU writ large. Neither incident was effectively interdicted despite certain knowledge that these kinds of attacks were highly likely.

Europe needs to make major changes in its approach to ISIS and ISIS spawned terrorism within Europe’s borders and beyond.

The notion that somehow the United States is responsible vis a vis the American mixed and tepid response to the Syrian Civil War, the modest effort against ISIS incursion into Iraq, and the meager response to growing ISIS expansion into Libya and northern Africa is monumentally off base.

Europe is clearly most vulnerable by virtue of proximity to the Middle East, in terms of the huge recent refugee influx, and the already very sizable Muslim segment of the population in nations like France and Belgium.

Europe needs to take the lead in effectively protecting its territory and securing its people, but also in the active interdiction of ISIS in areas where it has seized and holds territory. American support and reasonable participation is warranted, but it is essential for Europe the clearly step out front both diplomatically and militarily.
C (Brooklyn)
Hello? How is this President Obama's fault? Do you have some sons you are willing to offer up for the cause? My heartfelt sympathies for
the victims. Reactionary, racist and knee-jerk reactions are exactly what Deash wants - fuels their recruitment. Stop funding Saudi Arabia (enablers and mechanism of terrorism), use the 3 billion given to Netanyahu's apartheid government to provide infrastructure and needed jobs here. Lastly, acknowledge the history of US and European interference in the political process of Middle Eastern countries and get out, enough is enough.
Robert Del Dei (Los Angeles)
What is your recommendation Mr. Cohen?
Another ground war in the Middle East? A war orchestrated and paid for by the United States?

You call out President Obama's policies, but not those of Belgium, of France, of the EU?

Speak up Mr. Cohen, we're waiting for your bright idea on this.
Zip Zinzel (Texas)
MANY DELUSIONS on this topic
1) Obama caused this, because he withdrew our Military from Iraq
TRUTH: While, if we were still maintaining 100,000 troops over there, ISIS would probably never have gotten to the state they are,
. . . At the root, it was the GWB/Cheney/HRC doctrine of
. . .blossoming of Democracy through regime-change was the seed of this, and it was GWB's treaty with Iraq that made our departure inevitable
REALITY-CHECK= Something similar to this will happen if/when we leave Afghanistan. Even with our heavy presence there, they still abuse females with impunity, on the ground, and in the courtroom

2) Muslims need to lead the fight to take down ISIS
TRUTH= Muslims are NEVER going to be reliable or sufficient to come even close to destroying ISIS
Sunni troops can never be expected to engage in fierce combat against other Sunnis
Shiites, love to fight Sunnis, but only in context of car-bombing each other's Mosques or marketplaces
When Islamic forces engage in battle, they want it to be "jihad" style, where they get to kill military-age males, enslave the females, and divide up the conquered property
Alt-Reality-Check= Many, many muslims have given their lives in Muslim Armys and Police, but in relative terms they are small in number {see mov "Tell Spring not to come this Year"}
A National-Iraqi-Army 'could' work, but it is currently loyal to their sects, not the country
Muslim Armies 'sometimes' fight well when US troops are heavily embedded, except 4 fratricide
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
Don't fight ISIS, send ISIS population back and call a truce. ISIS want a Middle East without Christan and we want an Europe without Muslim so why not a population exchange?

We may have the urge to say fight back and bomb them but is that going to solve anything? There are 1.7 billion Muslim, 25% of the world's population, and growing quickly. Even if only 1% supports ISIS that's 17 million people. Are we realistically going to go after 17 million people that's on every continent and often hide in plain sight?

Send all of them back and let them practice whatever they want. They have civilization before so they don't need us telling them what to do and we certainly don't need them telling us our life are sinful and our women immodest.
Title Holder (Fl)
Mr Cohen writes:"The United States and Europe would not have accepted its existence in 2001." They did not and went to Afghanistan and later Iraq. How did that turn out?

Belgium has been under high alert since the Terrorist attacks in Paris last November, yet the Heart of Brussels got hit Today. F How is that Mr Obama fault?

Boko Haram has killed more than 1000 People in Western Africa in the last 3 Months, yet I've not heard Mr Cohen asking for President Obama to go after Boko haram. Why is that?
sipa111 (NY)
With great regret, I find myself agreeing with measures that a year ago I would have rejected out of hand. Start by cancelling the passports of anyone known to have left their countries to fight in Iraq, Syria or ISIS. Anyone who wants to return goes through interrogation, goes to jail and is then summarily deported. You do not get to come back to the society you rejected and wanted to destroy. Second, while I have great sympathy for the Syrian refugees, the West needs to be much more selective on who they choose to allow entry. If you can only allow a finite number, make sure they are in family units rather than single men by themselves.Single men, not surprisingly, are the biggest (though not the only) source, of dissatisfaction and show the greatest potential for becoming extremist. These are not 100% solutions but I think it is a start.
david (Chicago)
The attacks by Isis are a godsend to the likes of Trumpists. I see Cohen refer to them and others like Le Pen as they hop on the bandwagon of xenophobia. The reality is that the phenomenon is a local one as well as a fundamentalist one. Young people are being radicalized and they are citizens of their country. They aren't going to places like Saudia Arabia to be trained. They can get their instructions at home. So the answer is complex and messy and as one expert on Isis said today that these kinds of attacks are a result that Obama's attacks on Isis are working and they are using other tactics to strike back.
blaine (southern california)
ISIS is a fire that will burn itself out in my view. It needs to be contained, not put out. Trying to put it out just causes it to spread.

Waiting it out is the best of bad alternatives. We are looking at decades of trouble, in a situation where success is called 'not making things worse'.
Jonathan Gould (Livingston, NY)
Implicit in this column is a proposal for military action against ISIS. If so, and if that is indeed the only viable option, I believe that Mr. Cohen, as a British subject, should begin by acknowledging the fact that all of the NATO countries have standing armies. Let's start with the commitment of full infantry division from each of them. That would be a force of more than 250,000 troops. Seventy years after the end of World War Two, it's time for the people of Europe to start assuming real responsibility, and risking real sacrifice, for their security and ours.
Dee (Los Angeles, CA)
We may have man power and weaponry and intelligence. However, what we don't have is the ideological strength and ambition of ISIS. An individual who is willing to strap a bomb onto his body and blow himself up in the name of a cause can be much stronger than an entire army. ISIS might be thwarted in Syria but then it will crop up somewhere in Libya or Tunisia. It's not as easy as it was years ago when the enemy was clearly in a well defined area. The individuals who make up ISIS are everywhere, spreading like a plague.
Nate Bilhartz (Charlottesville, VA)
"It will increase calls for borders to be reinstituted." The horror...

Mr. Cohen acknowledges toward the end of his column that the "huge migrant flow from Syria and elsewhere" is damaging the European Union. What he evidently fails to realize is that invading Syria - which is presumably what he is suggesting in this column, although he doesn't quite come out and say it - would only exacerbate the problem by multiplying the migrant flow. Does Mr. Cohen really not understand that that's how it works?

Open borders benefit some people. The struggle between those who benefit from open borders and those who do not will be one of - if not the - defining struggle of the 21st century.
Enobarbus37 (Tours, France)
The Russian strategy of providing air support for the sovereign troops of Syria has worked and is still working. Why is it that Russia can successfully empower a local military and the United States cannot?

And Mr. Cohen, how often have American troops succeeded in stamping out terrorism during America's decades long War on Terror? Never, that is how many times. This time will be different?

And you wonder why the Americans who have called upon to perform these futile missions are voting for Donald Trump.
Martha (<br/>)
It's absurd to blame the rise of Isis on President Obama. Please. If you need to assign blame look to the Presidents Bush and their ill-thought out wars in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, all of which were perceived as "crusades" in the tinderbox of poverty, unemployment, boredom, and repression that gives rise to militant Islam. Pointing fingers really isn't helpful. What is the solution? I am sure I have no idea; but I do know that more war is not the answer.
Donald (Yonkers)
Roger has gone full circle-- he was an Iraq War booster, felt real bad about that for a short while and now he's back pushing for another ground war.
Ben (Brooklyn)
Roger Cohen never seems to miss an opportunity to try and guilt Obama into going to war.

If George W. Bush would have used American resources to quickly rebuild the World Trade Center after 9/11 as a symbol of American resiliency, that would have been a masterful stroke. Instead, Bush invaded several foreign nations and "confronted" terrorism... Whole lot of good that did.

"Ponderous" is the best approach. We should absolutely stop and ponder instead of reacting with anger.

Education, compassion and intelligent use $ is the way to go. We will never bomb our way to victory against terrorism. Bombs don't stop us so why would anyone expect them to stop terrorists? Did killing Osama Bin Laden stop anything? Nah, we just killed an evil old fool in his pajamas.

Roger Cohen, you are playing right into the hands of the terrorists: Easy to conquer, difficult to administrate, remember that.
Jack M (NY)
No one has taken risks like Merkel. I am afraid that Paris and Belgium are just the precursor to what we will see in Germany. Over a million from Syria? It will be on her head. You can not have mercy at the expense of your citizens safety. The solution is to provide a safe haven for the refugees in temporary housing in Syria, or pay Turkey to house them nearby. Defensive posts and air bases should be set up nearby to provide adequate protection. Trump has suggested something along these lines. I think it is a reasonable balanced solution.
Jim Waddell (Columbus, OH)
While I agree that President Obama has let ISIS get where it is by leaving Iraq prematurely (remember when Joe Biden called Iraq a "great success story" for the administration), failing to enforce his red line in Syria, and bailing out of Libya as soon as Quadaffi was overthrown, the Europeans are mostly at fault here.

Ever since WWII Europe has financed its welfare states by relying on the American military (and American taxpayer) to provide for their defense. French president Hollande said "This is war!" Let's see if he and his fellow Europeans are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
bcw (Yorktown)
So a man who told us how wonderful the Afghan and Iraqi invasions were going to be now tells us we need yet another invasion?
Brendan May (Philadelphia, Pa)
A problem with ponderous? If only we pondered anything prior to the Iraq invasion, we wouldn't be dealing with any of this.
petey tonei (Massachusetts)
Roger believes in impulsive behavior. reactive. non thoughtful. Its trump he wants.
Mr Magoo 5 (NC)
There is a lesson somewhere if people ever get beyond using just short-term memory.

Brussel reaped what it sowed. They opened the doors wide for Muslims to come into their country offering them a home.

It is human nature for likes to attract each other. Radical or not, Muslims stick together and protect one another. Obama wants to bring tens of thousands of Muslims from the terrorist’s hot bed of Syria to America. What do you think that will harvest in America?

Obama talks a good talk, but his actions created a mess in Syria with the intent to get a pipeline through Syria to EU. We support our so-called Middle East allies who hired and trained terrorists and insurgents to overthrow Assad’s government resulting in ISIS. The reason we support Qatar and the Saudis is that they sell their oil and gas for US dollars. Now the powerbrokers want us to make Hillary our next president, so we can get more of the same, thanks to our short-term memory.
Alex Phillips (Brooklyn)
I just think it's sad that our foreign policy pundits and elite can be so easily wound up over anything that happens in Western Europe & the Middle East but can't be bothered to advocate for action anywhere else.

The world is a big place and US resources are finite. We can't spend all of our time being Europe's butler, bodyguard and therapist. If the nations of Europe are unwilling to expend the resources and blood necessary to resolve the issues in their own region, why should we do it for them?

And finally, how on earth is any course of US intervention going to make the Syria mess any better? No foreign power can ever force the Syrians to stop fighting until they are good and ready to do so; just ask someone at the Kremlin if you don't believe me, they saved Assad from death and when asked to step aside he promptly gave Russia the finger.
tomreel (Norfolk, VA)
Mr. Cohen begins by writing, "It's not working."
Usually the anti-Obama screeds don't lose me until a little further into the column. To implicate the President of the United States in this week's terrorist attacks in Belgium is - how can I put this? - not working.

When home-grown terrorists murdered American citizens in San Bernadino, it was reasonable to discuss domestic safety concerns and policies. But did columnists in Europe agonize over what their countries' leaders should have done to prevent the atrocity committed in America? Of course not!

The horror in Belgium argues for discussion of safety concerns and policies in that neighborhood. And President Obama, like the leaders of all civilized societies, is well advised to encourage broader global cooperation in the interest of dealing with this threat. I gather he is doing that.

But can we please not contrive ways to blame Barack Obama for everything that goes wrong in the world? Blaming him for everything we don't like in the United States is silly enough. And besides, "it's not working."
PB (West Florida)
The OpEd, as usual, starts with an unprovable and probably false premise. Much of the rest is just the same.

Not working compared to what? Let's obliterate Raqqa or occupy it. Will you serve in that operation Roger? Are you sure that will prevent future attacks in Europe or elsewhere? Based on what evidence?

The US and Europe wouldn't have accepted the Raqqa base in 2001 because we bombed Tora Bora, but let Bin Laden escape? How does that make any sense at all? How successful was US military intervention in the middle east at preventing terrorist attacks?

Sorry Roger. I know what's happened is awful. You and your readers feel terrible about it. You're sure Obama can magically stop all of this with a wave of his hand?

Your writing is basically ridiculous.
Larry (<br/>)
Inevitable: "it's all Obama's fault." Cohen belatedly concedes at the end that "there are no easy answers." But the rest of his article belies this truism. For the right, it's always Obama's fault, end of discussion.
J. Daniel (Brooklyn, NY)
Mr. Cohen - President Obama's job is to protect Americans. PERIOD.

If you want to defend Europe, I recommend you pack your bags and fly to Europe and join the French Foreign Legion. Enough is enough of telling us that we need to protect the world.
petey tonei (Massachusetts)
Roger being the kind of American who has one foot here, one foot there, one hand in a 3rd place and the 4th hand in yet another place. he is so scattered that he can't think of America as a country, he would rather America be the savior of all his 4 limbs,.
lastcard jb (westport ct)
OK, so let me get this straight. Its America's fault and only America can fix it.
Let the Europe - Germany, France, Spain etc... put on their big boy soldier pants and do what they think they need to do. Its time for them to stop complaining that the US is too involved, not involved enough, we don't like America butting in, we want America to butt in, etc..... and take care of their own countries.
You want democracies, you want autonomy, you want peace? Great, then get off your collective behinds and do it.
Betsy Herring (Edmond, OK)
I think the author needs to return to his desk and give us his solution for the situation he describes. Does he want the US to provide the security forces to prevent these attacks? Does he want us to move troops into the major European capitals to protect them? Does he want us to send more billions to be thrown away to so-called groups to defend everyone? Does he want us to condemn a legitimate political party (LePen)? I see no solutions -- only vague commentary. We are an ocean away and have never got this involved in European affairs unless it is a full-scale war.
ISIS in its death throes, and the series of attentats including, punctual assassinations, committed against the West and its inhabitants over the past year or so may be a sign of weakness, not of strength. Recall in 1962, eve of i ndependence in Algeria, when oas killers, the "menu fretin"of th self defense groups, would kill a Muslim every half hour on the hour and within 6 months, after the Referendum granting independence , its leaders were in prison at LA SANTE, and its small fry gunmen absconded for Europe, one step ahead of the FLN djounouds who sought them out to "regler les comptes."Likewise for the exaltes of ISIS.Caliphate is coming apart at the seams, its oil revenues r drying up, and its sole remaing resource R its freelance gunmen in Europe.But their attacks against the West r payback for decades of imperialism which
Charles Michener (<br/>)
Defeating ISIS and the clones that will surely succeed it requires an about-face by the Islamic regimes that currently educate and harbor terrorists. Western countries must use their economic leverage to get states in both the Middle and Far East fully engaged in the global war against jihad. After all, those states are more at risk for terrorist mayhem than we are.
Bob Burns (Oregon's Willamette Valley)
I sympathize enormously with the Europeans and their ongoing problems with radical jihadis. It boggles my mind in trying to understand how willing these people are to blow themselves up, taking as many innocents with them as they can.

But unless and until the Europeans themselves decide that they've had enough and decide to take out ISIS and Al Qaeda at their root in Iraq and Syria, I see no reason why Americans, once again, should bear the brunt of the loss.

The Europeans have shown a remarkable ability to get Americans to do the dirty work, to spill American blood and spend American treasure. This is one fight which must be led from across the pond, not from Washington.

Obama is doing the right thing, which is what's he's said from the beginning: "Don't do stupid stuff."
artistcon3 (New Jersey)
What happened when we went full force against Iraq? The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan - both ended disastrously. I don't think the attacks in Brussels were in any way the fault of the US, and I sort of resent you saying that if Obama did more, this wouldn't have happened. We are not the policemen of the world. The US is doins more to fight ISIS than any other western country. The fact that we have cut off a large portion of their oil supply money and are reclaiming a lot of the "caliphate" barely gets mentioned by you. It's like, "yes these are successess but the failures of Obama are so much more." I am glad we're not entrenched in yet another war that will give rise to yet another insurgency. Europe needs to step up even more. So do many of our other allies. We can't go this alone.
ACJ (Chicago, IL)
Roger I would replace the word ponderous for a better description of the President's approach---measured. We have suffered through an administration whose approach was decisive, and where did that get us, where we are now.
Chazak (Rockville, MD)
I notice that the author offered no new ideas on how to combat ISIS. Nothing. I agree that what we are doing isn't working, but what are our options? Like the Republican candidates, the author is full of criticism, but curiously silent when it comes to actual ideas for combating ISIS.

No one seems to know what to do about the violence which has infected part of Islam. It keeps getting worse.
Michael (Baltimore)
You write that "Islamic State terror also plays into the hands of demagogues," and I would say that applies to this column as well. The fact is that such tactics have been with us always -- the anarchists of a century ago, the bombings of the Vietnam era (including the Capitol), the Red Brigades of Italy, the Palestinians of the Munich Olympics, all sorts of bombings and kidnappings throughout Europe in last decades of the 20th century, etc., etc., etc. When these acts accomplished the most, it was by getting those attacked to overreact. Read your history to see what the US did in response to anarchist bombings. It might seem familiar. Since 9/11, the standard response has been a declaration of war. The result has been the elevation of a relative handful of horrible people into a legitimate political movement -- in large part because of the residue of the actual war in Iraq. Mr. Cohen, no one is "waiting them out." Police and intelligence officials are hard at work. The round-the-clock coverage and hysterical reaction to this act -- "The message was clear: We can still hit you at will!!!" -- only add to the "charismatic appeal of the militant group."
Jeff P (Pittsfield, ME)
It's hard to see that destroying ISIS as a geographical entity, desirable as that may be, will have much impact on this type of attack. There will always be someplace in the vast territory from Afghanistan through North Africa for ISIS or other like-minded groups to set up training camps, and unfortunately it seems there will always be willing recruits from neighborhoods like Molenbeek. I don't think that's worth the likely thousands of U. S. lives lost, both on the ground and the post-war victims of PTSD, that would result should we take Roger Cohen's advice here.
Tom Bird (East Lansing, MI)
Along with much other coverage and commentary, Cohen’s column does the terrorists’ work for them. The first thing they want is 24-7 wall-to-wall news coverage for their attacks; our infotainment media supply that in spades. Then they want the world to see our politicians, pundits, and other opinion leaders speaking loudly and excitedly about them and their attacks; Cohen is making his contribution to that. Then they want to provoke us into hasty and ill-considered actions, like putting troops on the ground in Raqqa. And again Cohen is right there on the case.

Cohen asks “whether and why Raqqa can be tolerated when Al Qaeda’s Tora Bora sanctuary in Afghanistan was not,” strongly implying that what’s needed is military ground operations. If that were a real question, Cohen would have recognized that “Tora Bora” referred to a set of caves in the Afghan mountains, while “Raqqa” denotes a Syrian city inhabited not only by ISIS members but also by thousands of ordinary Syrians. And that brings another question Cohen failed to ask or to answer: How many ordinary Syrians (Iraqis, Libyans, others) should die in some impulsive attempt to avoid attacks in Europe and the United States?

Suggestion to Cohen: There will be other attacks and other columns. Perhaps you should start now outlining the kind of column that could do something other than serve the terrorists’ purposes.
sherm (lee ny)
Our Middle East military history in a nutshell:
Humpty Dumptys got Pushed off a wall.
Humpty Dumptys had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put the Humpty Dumptys back together again.

So Mr Cohen is saying what's another Humpty Dumpty more or less.
boris (nj)
It sounds to me as though the threat Mr. Cohen is most concerned with is the one posed to globalism. A revival of European nationalism and national institutions does not bode well for the bankers or their proxies in Brussels and Berlin. This is the end result Mr. Cohen wants American policy to head off. Too bad he can't spare a thought for the European citizens actually suffering from the impact of mass migration and terrorism.
Ricardo (Brussels)
These terror attacks in Brussels prove that the security measures taken in this city in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in November (the blockade of the city center, namely) were completely useless, as the terrorists have proven again: they can hit whenever they want, wherever they want, as soft targets abound (the metro network is the perfect example). Brussels and Belgium have been far too permissive towards this fringe of its population, and now we are suffering the consequences.
pnut (Austin)
There is a faction of powerful people in America, who are dying, DYING to do something stupid in a half-baked attempt to once and for all, fix the world.

Roger Cohen is giving fully discredited advice. Go hunting with Dick Cheney, Roger, America has moved on.

Obama's already re-engineered the military and intelligence operations to adapt to 21st century threats. As long as we don't put an impulsive idiot in charge, the system will continue to be effective.
WR (Midtown)
Look in the mirror Rodger, it is you and your buddies sitting around the newsroom - editorial room - dreaming inane liberal fantasies of one world of peace, that bear most of the responsibility for the seven year rein of weakness of the Obama administration.

Your worldview is twisted to favor those who would destroy your values. By what right should Muslims have the freedom to travel to America? Jews are singled out and deigned the freedom to travel to our ally Saudi Arabia. What amazing value to they bring here? They bring death and murder where-ever they go. It was a Muslim that assassinated Robert Kennedy, was it not.

We do not need a war against ISIS if we just restrict the movement of ALL Muslims.
ThatJulieMiller (Seattle)
Anyone who wants war with ISIS should put pressure on Congress to declare one.
bdr (<br/>)
The only aspect of "steadiness" in Obama's Middle east policy is its slowness. He was bitten by the Libya fiasco, wiggled out of intervention is Syria, and has not put the Saudis and their Gulf allies on notice. Even Hillary, running as the "Third Obama Term" candidate has had issues with the refusal of those who supported the Sunni State to take a real role in ending it now. Obama has successfully kicked the ball down field for his successor to handle. Can the US tolerate more of this sort of "leadership?"
Jane Spletzer (<br/>)
I enjoy Mr.Cohen's writings and respect his insights. This article, I believe, could be challenged.
So much of the tension is the Middle East stems from the slipshod manner the victors of WWI drafted the geographic lines of the former Ottoman Empire into the countries that compose that region. Devoted enemies share the same state; religious strife in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, etc. is the power in the keg. Our want of oil permitted us to ignore the inherent violence of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi sect. In ignoring a reality, we supported the insanity. And then W invaded a country predicated on a lie. 4486 soldiers died because W had Oedipus issues. Criminal... yet no one went to jail. His venture destroyed what little semblance of stability existing there (remember Rumsfeld and Saddam, so jovial, when we wanted them to die as surrogates for us in the Iran/Iraq war) and the military men of Iraq, the former Baathist, are now merged with Isis. Everything is connected. With the righteous and wanted creation of Israel, the power in the keg was now saturated in gasoline. There appear to be only two things that unite the Arab world; its hatred for Israel and our unquestioned support for that country. Alexander the Great recognized that this region was difficult and that Afghanistan was impossible. Barbara Tuckman's March to Folly should be read by anyone seeking nation office. We committed folly in V N, Cuba, and just about every state in the Middle East. Time to stop.Paul Spletzer
Cord Jones (Silver Spring, MD)
Admittedly, I did not read every Comment; that said, does any one beside me think that economic sanctions (drying up ISIS oil revenue), tracking and impounding their investments and other financial assets makes sense? Or am I just whistling into the wind, hoping against hope?
Novastra (Hamilton, Canada)
Since when Europe has a heart? Thousands of desperate human beings, escaping the "civilized" bombs of European countries, are camped in quagmires waiting for the "civilized" European countries to open their borders and allow them in.
What happened in Brussels is a horrific but closing the borders to desperate people is no less horrific.
Paul O'Dwyer (New York)
It's astounding to see that Roger Cohen hasn't even waited for the dust to clear on this latest atrocity before calling out Obama as the one to blame.
Inelegance aside, blaming Obama for not being able to fix a problem that has been decades in the making, and arguably caused largely by his predecessors whose names are notably absent from this "it's your fault" column, is not only petty but myopic. Not to be reductive, but Congress won't even allow him replace a Supreme Court judge. What makes you think they would let him embark on a military campaign to defeat Isis? The right wing of that party would sooner see Europe blown to smithereens than unite behind any plan proposed by the President.

Further, the notion that you can bomb Isis out of existence is naive. Isis is the result at least in part of a campaign to bomb Saddam Hussein out of existence. See how well that worked.
Time to wake up: this is a multi-faceted problem, with military, social, cultural, religious, political, nationalistic and economic dimensions. It has more than one cause, and it will require more than one simplistic solution.
Richard Seager (New York)
Roger Cohen keeps writing these columns criticizing President Obama's strategy against ISIS but never, ever says what should be done instead. If he has some brilliant idea that will defeat ISIS and not just lead to another new Islamic fundamentalist hydra head then pray please do tell.
AJ (<br/>)
Roger, why don't we start with you and your children volunteering to be America's "boots on the ground" in the Middle East.

Stop demanding our President send the children and parents and siblings of other Americans to death and maiming for a war that is not just America's fight.

I'm tired of Americans dying and coming home crippled for battles that at the very least should be shared with any number of other nations.

ISIS is a horror. "Volunteering" other Americans to die to fight it is not the solution. Fighting ISIS will be a long drawn out battle. It is one whose cost in monies and people needs to be equitably shared by countries of the Middle East and Europe, not just borne by Americans.

Thank God for President Obama and an element of sanity in our foreign policy.
jdd (New York, NY)
While already expressing deepest condolences to King Phillipe and to the Belgian people, Vladimir Putin "has strongly condemned these barbaric crimes" while assuring "the Belgian people of the Russians' absolute solidarity with the Belgian people in these difficult hours, However, it was also reported that Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova stated,
"As more and more time and lives are lost, people are beginning to understand that this policy of double standards in evaluating terrorist activities is a dead-end policy, They can't support support terrorists in one part of the globe and not expect them to appear in others," We should have learned this with Al-Queda and 9/11, but have allowed "our allies' especially the Saudis and Erdogan of Turkey, to repeat these atrocities through ISIS.
SaneSF (san Francisco)
Mr. Cohen, what took you so long to write this column. judging by most of the comments here Neville Chamberlain would be a hero today. First thing we can do is relax our rules of engagement, i.e. attack their oil facilities and tanker trucks. Next, kill their known bankers. Next, deport immediately any known ISIS sympathizers in the US if only to an island in the Aleutians. Next, take away the citizenship and travel privileges og any U S citizens known to have traveled to fight with ISIS. A fee Brussels style attacks in the US and unfortunately more draconian measures will be needed. Last, don't elect Hillary/a third term of Obama.
eric d meyer (ABQ NM)
What's not working is the whole international war on terror. The Western/USA invasions of Afghanistan Iraq and Syria under the guise of fighting terrorism have destabilized the Muslim world and created an enormous terrorist training ground. spawned more terrorists and made Muslims everywhere think the West and the US are the enemy. And when the West/US responds to terror attacks by escalating counter-terrorist violence and ratcheting up pressure on Muslim communities, we only create more terrorism. The problem is how to stop the self-perpetuating escalating cycle of counter-terrorist/terrorist violence, and more counter-terrorist violence and more pressure on Muslim communities won't do it. The West/US has to accept that Muslims, even those driven insane by counter-terrorism/terrorism, are still human beings and not a disease or vermin that can be eradicated by more violence. They are human beings who have grown up in a world of counter-terrorist/terrorist war against them and have responded in kind, just as the West/US does when it responds to terror attacks with more terror. The international war on terror and its terrorist violence will only stop when both sides decide to stop it. And if we have to be the ones to decide to stop it first, we have to take that step, or else accept a world of continuously escalating violence for the indefinite future...
RCR (elsewhere)
There's plenty in this column to disagree with, but one refrain in the comments is even worse: that Belgium bears the blame for the failure of these citizens to integrate into Belgian society. What more could the hyper-generous social democracies of Europe do to effect integration? Force immigrant families to cohabit with French or Flemish ones? Force immigrant teenagers to date French or Flemish ones?
Ben Harding (Boulder, co)
ISIS can't undermine European or American society. That is fear mongering. Stop it. Why don't you write the truth: only we can undermine our society if we panic. Didn't you learn anything from 911? Is Barack Obama the only adult in the room?

One more thing--stop advocating wars for other people to fight. Grab your weapon, saddle up, and go.
Tijger (Rotterdam, NL)
I was going to respond to this article, being from the next country over, but then I thought better of it, apparently Mr Cohen thinks you can fight ISIS in Syria and not get any fallout outside Syria. Well, guess what? You can't.
R (Texas)
Cohen is such an inflammatory inciter to action. The incident occurred in Brussels, which is in EUROPE, not the United States of America. Exactly how does he justify this as an AMERICAN problem. Doesn't Western Europe have some responsibility for its own protection? (Maybe, eventually, sole responsibility.) The European Union is a political formation with 500 M+ people and a GDP equivalent to the US. America, and its citizenry, are being mobilized for the protection of the Homeland. First, and foremost, is the preclusion of immigration from volatile areas from where these action purportedly originate. Perhaps European NATO and the European Union should take notice.
bl (rochester)
When you Roger Cohen bother to go into Iraq and ask
Iraqi politicians whether they would approve of 50000 americans
reentering their country to do the work their own army is
not quite up to doing, and then report back to us on what you
manage to discover, then your chicken hawk ramblings will have
some substance. When you bother to go to Iran and Russia
and inquire from the folks in charge there how they would
feel about 50000 NATO ground troops retaking all of eastern
ISIS held territory, then your opinion will have at least some
reality behind it.

In the meantime it would be more useful to deal with
Belgian state dysfunction and criminal ineptitude when it
comes to intelligence coordination and sharing across
that country and the rest of the continent.
silty (sunnyvale, ca)
I'm not at all sure that the threat of ISIS would be much dissipated if only it were driven out from its territory in Syria and Iraq. ISIS is an ideology, not a territory, and the techniques of terror can be learned anywhere. There is no simple military answer. The best long-range solution for the ME is to help the people of combat ISIS on their own, and that means doing what we can to encourage political unity and competent government - though unfortunately the people there have not much talent for either. As far as the threat to the West, a host of things can be done which collectively can minimize if not eliminate the threat, as in the U.S.

ISIS can kill people, but it does not present an existential threat to the West. However, the West most assuredly poses an existential threat to ISIS. Modernism, science, technology, secularism, human rights, democracy, prosperity, peace, the ways of the West in general have come or are coming to every corner of the world by popular demand. Even the people of the ME are fleeing ISIS for the West, where (if they are allowed to settle) they and their children will be Westernized. ISIS is really a desperate, doomed rearguard action, and that is one reason for its viciousness.
greg anton (sebastopol)
the US killed a million people in Iraq...a country that committed no act of aggression against the US. The front pages of newspaper's around the world showed american soldiers torturing people at abu grabe prison....why doesn't the rest of the world understand that voilent solutions to political problems are not ok?
LarryAt27N (<br/>)
For one, I'm sitting back and waiting for NATO to mount a fierce attack against ISIS positions, an attack that include air power, drones, field artillery, tanks, and infantry.

Who's that sitting and waiting next to me? Why, it looks like Obama! I thought he was still in Cuba.

It's time for NATO to step up.
Paul A Myers (Corona del Mar CA)
Roger Cohen's basic premise is false. Cohen is asserting that if President Obama had already defeated ISIS in Syria that the terrorist incident in Brussels would not have occurred. This is an exceptionally dubious proposition. Cohen's assertion that "many of them trained in Syria" is equally dubious.

A better argument might be that after the Paris attacks a more effective mobilization of European counterterrorism forces might have forestalled the Brussels attacks. It was not as if this attack was unexpected.

European dithering and not Obama's supposed fecklessness might be the culprit.
Stephen Kosloff (NYC)
There are enormous risks with the US starting another land war in the Middle East as well.
Alfred Sils (California)
So Roger are you advocating for reinstituting the draft? That's what it will take to invade and occupy the entire Middle East forever because, Trump aside, there is no short term or easy military answer to this problem.
Surely the Europeans have to realize that they are the front line but to lay this latest barbarism on our president is really vile.
Ron (Oregon)
There are not only the foreign policy questions of this mess and us getting involved, there are the real issues of us throwing our troops around over there. I have to assume that Cohen has at least glanced at a map of Syria and western Iraq. A lot of those places are very very far away from a friendly port or country. Maybe we could just force our way through Assad controlled western Syria, use Lebanon as a base of operations or perhaps Israel will let us access Syria through the Golan Heights. I ftankly can't see a down side to any of those options, and the amount of sense those options make dovetail nicely with the amount of sense Cohen makes in this column.
rjd (nyc)
Okay........So no one wants to send a Western Army into the Middle East. On that we can all agree.
But is it necessary to continue to allow a rampant influx of Islamic migrants who clearly have absolutely no intention of ever being assimilated into their host Countries? Or to run the risk that even a handful of these "refugees" can cause enormous death & destruction. Let alone the fact that the Islamic State has already announced their intention to flood the zone with terrorists under the cover of the "refugee crisis".
It is one thing to be thoughtful & reasonable about our response to these atrocities but a whole other thing to willfully and blindly allow mass murderers into our midst. Isn't it the 1st responsibility of Government to protect its own citizens? Or is that somewhere down at the bottom of the list nowadays?
Mike Murray MD (Olney, Illinois)
Mr. Cohen seems to be well and truly terrorized. This is exactly what the enemy wants, to provoke us into anther foolish response. Fortunately we have a President who has stouter nerves than Mr. Cohen's.
Dave R (Cambridge Massachusetts)
This senseless and terribly tragic event has only just happened and already an analysis laying the blame -- in part -- at the feet of the American President? This despite the fact that the attack happened in the heart of the European Union, and in a country to which the Paris attackers were linked? We have fought two major ground wars half a world away in forbidding places all in the name of fighting terror. And it wasn't this President who launched those wars, one of which --our epic folly in Iraq -- is directly responsible for the disintegration of that state which in turn allowed ISIS to flourish. In a free society, it will be difficult if not impossible to stop each and every incident. If we need to redouble our efforts in counter-intelligence, we should. But blaming a bomb planted in Brussels on the failure of American foreign policy is quite a stretch to put it charitably.
Bill (NYC)
The predictably conventional reaction from the effete European elite that we've come to expect from Mr. Cohen:

1) Anything that threatens the cohesion of the EU must be bad; and

2) The U.S. always has to step in and be the military bad guy who protects Europe's inclusive ideals, by carpet-bombing people on the other side of the globe, just as long as no one in Europe gets hurt.

Well, maybe the EU's open borders and self-congratulatory progressive thinking SHOULD be questioned by nationalist parties from the U.K., France, etc. Reality has a way of getting noticed no matter how much the elite ignores it.
D.N. (Chicago, IL)
A lot of people, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump included, seem to believe that fighting ISIS is exactly like fighting the Nazis in WWII. All we have to do is "go in there" (wherever there is) and kick some extremist butt. It is this type of thinking that exacerbated this mess in the first place. We must start by understanding that the Middle East never had an enlightenment, so we are embroiled not only in a clash of cultures but a clash of centuries and it is beyond any president's ability to shape the outcome to suit his or her world view. The most we can hope for is moderate, if imperfect, containment, and thankfully this administration has understood that reasonably well. This sort of critique, void of any actual solutions or insights, is meaningless in solving an intricate and intractable problem. Yes, Europe needs to do more, and yes, the Muslim countries need to do more, and yes, the US has an important role to play in all of it. But until there is an awakening within the jihadist's 13th century culture, there is not going to be a solution that flat out "works."
Louis (Cordoba)
Must Europe Union be saved at all costs? No matter what? What if the difficulties governing and unity are too great to overcome and is was a mistake, in the view of the majority of European people? It is easy to brush this aside, but it is not at all inconceivable that this will be the case soon. Then we will have the "elite governing class" forcing union upon a popular sentiment to the contrary. History offers some lessons of where that leads, not good ones.
Harold Johnson (Palermo)
Sorry Mr Cohen, Obama does not have a quick fix for this one. Do you really think a massive US invasion of Syria and a violent dismantling of Raqqa will stop jihadist attacks by true believers in Cairo, Brussels, Indonesia, or anywhere else in the world? If so you have not been truly present for the past 15 years. My view is that we continue what we are doing in the Middle East, that is working with Russia and Iran to furnish some stability in Syria, tighten the visa process and the entrance examinations of refugees, and in Europe the Europeans should spend some money, a lot of it, at the borders of Europe to set up centers for refugees and screening of those who want asylum assisted by the UN, and to share more intelligence on the Federal level. More should be done to cut off funding of these militant groups which probably means a closer look at Saudi Arabia. Even when all of this is done, these countries of the Middle East which are stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages regarding education, economic growth and lack of opportunity producing chronic poverty will produce jihadists until there is real change or until it all burns out in a chronic massive depression of the people who have to live in such conditions.
NRroad (Northport, NY)
Obama and his fans, well represented in the comments on this op ed, are beginning to resemble the pre-WWII isolationists who were in denial about the need to confront the Nazis and other fascist states. Even FDR was extremely slow to appreciate the need to act. Sooner or later the West will have to accept the fact that whatever else is done to counteract the culture of Islamic extremists, massive destruction of such groups and their resources is a essential part of the puzzle. Boots on the ground from all in the Western coalition will likely be a prerequisite. And if the U.S. shirks a leadership role don't expect anything good to happen. The 21st century can all too easily become a century of terrorist destruction of Western institutions and ideologies, an epoch of human as well as environmental disaster.
McDonald Walling (Tredway)
Mr Cohen gets this precisely right. As an American waking in the UK to day after tv coverage of the Brussels bombings, it's impossible to avoid being struck by the signs of inaction, helplessness, impotence even.

UK tourists murdered on a Tunisian beach. No response. Paris, twice. Now Brussels.

We presume that heightened security and intelligence measures helped officials capture Abdeslam. We assume these were technically proficient and professional measures. And yet we find he was caught "near where he grew up," this newspaper reported. And during this period of heightened security, these latest murderers were able to plan and execute successfully yesterday's attacks?

How can citizens have faith in their institutions, not just to protect them, but that they might be simply competent?

A UK official / commentator just said on tv, "security is certainly one area that we can come together and agree on pretty quickly." That's it.

Does that statement leave you with a feeling of comfort, or doubt?
ConAmore (VA)
By now it should be axiomatic that the strain of religious mania exhibited by ISIS is not subject to resolution by reason or negotiation. Not only do they disdain the sanctity of human life, they thrive, nay relish the acts of butchery they're committed in the name of their God. Hence, it's hardly reasonable to advance diplomacy as reasonably calculated to deal with the danger.

Merely circling the wagons and hunkering down necessarily involves enhanced government surveillance and police interference with out lives, which not only erodes our civil liberties, but at the same time supports the terrorist's objectives.

If the EU and US don't excise the source of the malignancy, it will metastasize and continue its invasive course as seen in Syria and Libya where they are making substantial territorial gains, which will provide a platform from which to launch even more sophisticated attacks.
Gemma (Austin, TX)
Excuse me, but It is no longer the responsibility of the U.S. (and never should have been) to save the world and whose fault is it that Europe has allowed a rather careless flood of immigration? Haven't we done enough damage, wasted enough human life and spent enough money at this point? That became clear to most Americans, and especially clear to Mr. Obama, after the terrible mistakes of the recent past. No one has prevented any other country from trying to solve the problems in the Middle East, or going over to Syria and taking a lead role, or doing whatever needed to be done to defend their country. Geez Roger, you sound like one of the rabid republicans who manage to blame Obama for everything, even the weather on a given day. There is no more American exceptionalism and it is time for the other brilliant human beings on this planet to step up to the plate and lead with solutions, not wars.
J D R (Brooklyn NY)
Roger, what are you expecting? Immediate results and instant success. That is what I would call a high-risk policy. Because it's impossible. Part of this is because ISIL is, among many things including a brutal terrorist organization, an ideology and a movement. If this is crushed, another form of ISIL will arise. Thus, apart from sending millions and millions of troops to the entire Middle East and pretty much permanently occupying the whole region (an impossible venture), there is little more that can be done other than strategically eliminating the leaders and the followers. And that is being done. The depressing and heart breaking attacks in Brussels (and Paris), are the result of an intelligence failure. It seems widely known that the multiple intelligence groups in the EU have a very hard time communicating because they are so competitive (my cousin actually is a security consultant for the EU) and there are huge lapses in the dissemination of information. Perhaps Belgium needs to look very closely at the travel patterns of its citizens to the Middle East since the perpetrators of this horrific act were nationals. And it might just be worth the entire EU finally getting themselves organized and coming up with their own strategic and military plan instead of not taking charge of the situation.
See also