Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
[UPDATE 8/7: The New York Times just reported that the U.S. is either conducting or assisting with airstrikes on ISIS positions close to Mount Sinjar, where displaced Yazidis and Christrians are stranded.. The U.S. has also begun airdrops of emergency supplies, including water ane medicine. Let's hope the White House debate about what to do in Iraq has moved decisively toward a holistic response that includes relieft, protection and resettlement of displaced Iraqis. The "active option" of military assistance -- with the goal of helping the Kurds repell ISIS, and protecting religious minorities from further aggression -- must be part of a new Obama doctrine.]
The New York Times reported this afternoon that President Obama is now "weighing" both "passive" and "active" options for addressing the horrifying deaths of children, and other members of the Yazidis , a religious sect, who have been stranded for days and slowing burying the dead--chidlren and the elederly mostly, on top of Mount Sinjar, after the arrival of ISIS fighters forced them to flee their homes.
“There could be a humanitarian catastrophe there,” a second administration official said, adding that a decision from Mr. Obama was expected “imminently — this could be a fast-moving train.”
The administration official said that “the president is weighing both passive and active options,” defining passive action as dropping humanitarian supplies. He added, using an alternative name for ISIS, “More active, we could target the ISIL elements that are besieging the base of the mountain.”
"Passive option"? Those who have watched the brutal tactics of ISIS continue, with no effective U.S. response -- verbal or otherwise, assumed that the president had chosen the "passive option"." Now we learn that acccording to this administration's foreign policy perspective, "passive" is something different.
Passive means an "airdrop" of lifesaving supplies to keep hungry, thirsty refugees alive. But, according to the Times, the White House is still consumed with an internal debate about whether to give life-saving provisions. It's really a tough call, sn't it? The president's many deputy security advisors need to "weigh" that decision carefully --- maybe for another six months until there isn't one member of areligoius minority left in Iraq and the Islamic State is fully entrenched.
Then there is the "active option" -- approving one or more U.S. airstrikes on the ISIS fighters that have surrounded the stranded Iraqis on Mouth Sijar. I am guessing that the "action option" doesn't seem like a hard call to the Iraqi Chrisians pleading for the U.S. to help provide protection to displaced Iraqis scrambling to stay ahead of the ISIS juggernaut, and to the Kurds, who have protected the Christians, but are running out of money and weapons to sustain their fight against ISIS.
"Passive" is a good term for describing the administration's response to the humanitarian crisis, thus far. But it also reflects the mood of much of the media, and of the American public, too. In an article posted yesterday on The New Yorker website, George Packer said it well:
It’s hard to know what, if anything, is left of the humanitarian responsibilities of the international community. The age of intervention is over, killed in large part by the Iraq war. But justifiable skepticism about the use of military force seems also to have killed off the impulse to show solidarity with the helpless victims of atrocities in faraway places. There’s barely any public awareness of the unfolding disaster in northwestern Iraq, let alone a campaign of international support for the Yazidis—or for the Christians who have been driven out of Mosul or the Sunni Arabs who don’t want to live under the tyranny of ISIS. The front-page news continues to be the war in Gaza, a particular Western obsession whether one’s views are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, or pro-plague-on-both-houses. Nothing that either side has done in that terrible conflict comes close to the routine brutality of ISIS.