Within 24 hours of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, France and our other NATO allies banded together without hesitation to make clear the attack on our American homeland was an attack on all free nations. Indeed, it was the people of France who famously invoked the poignant message Nous sommes tous Américains, literally, We are all Americans.
When the United States was attacked, our NATO allies invoked Article 5, the common defense clause of the North Atlantic Treaty, which makes explicit that an attack on one allied nation is an attack on us all. Invoking Article 5 set the stage for a coordinated international military response. France stood by us at the forefront of these joint operations.
Last week, after ISIS militants killed more than 100 innocent people in Paris, the French president rightfully declared the premeditated attacks an act of war.
Rather than respond with America's steadfast support, as France did 14 years ago during one of the darkest hours in modern times, President Obama took to the global airwaves to double-down on his failed containment strategy. Rather than reaffirm to our French ally that America is with them in the fight against barbaric terrorists who threaten all civilized people, President Obama stubbornly clung to his failed policy of "containing" a cancer that is clearly metastasizing. He publicly spurned the possibility of America coming to the table to find a better, bolder way forward.
Worse still, to many Americans' dismay, President Obama seemed to suggest France should join him in adopting his own policy of limited power and disengagement. After referring to the attacks in Paris as a setback, President Obama reiterated in defiance, "the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work" but, "it's going to take time."
However in the same address, President Obama himself admits, "concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now." So, one might ask, how much more time will it take? And what shape will the world be in then?
After five years of ignoring his own commanders and choosing to go it alone, President Obama finally has an opportunity to get it right: he should convene the North Atlantic Council and let our military leaders formulate a new, decisive military strategy that can defeat ISIS.
Under the auspices of Article 5, President Obama gains the political cover one senses he needs to let United States military leaders repurpose our weak defensive posture. Article 5 accommodates President Obama's squeamish apprehension to take decisive action as Commander in Chief of the world's most capable military, by embedding our own nation's security objectives within a strategy developed and enforced by a community of allied nations.
The beauty of invoking Article 5 is that it alleviates the self-imposed, political pressures that preclude this president from making a game-day decision to abandon soft-power, or limited power, or whatever his political advisers now call it. NATO would ultimately green-light any enhanced military action, providing President Obama a hedge against critics quick to draw parallels between a needed change in U.S. strategy and his failed leadership.
Passivity and irresolution are no longer morally tenable in the current security environment. Some might argue President Obama's moral compass failed him years ago, when he abandoned his red line on the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Syria.
America and our allies are at heightened risk. To continue to treat the threat of ISIS as something to be contained is beyond dangerous. After direct threats to our homeland in the days after the Paris attacks, we simply cannot accord ISIS a safe-haven, with ample space and resources to plan and recruit, to train disenfranchised youth, and to research and develop chemical weapons to carry out attacks on the civilized societies of the world.
To keep Americans safe, President Obama must use this critical juncture wisely, convene with our NATO allies, and invoke Article 5 as a face-saving means of finessing his transition from a failed strategy to a winning one.
U.S. Rep. Todd Young represents the 9th Congressional District of Indiana.