The news spotlight is on the US electoral drama. Everything outside the circle of media brilliance is momentarily in shadow, most especially Obama administration’s governance record. They persist in a singular state of invisibility. Scandals, domestic crises, foreign conflicts — none have been resolved. It is just that the newspapers don’t talk about them any more. Matthew Continetti of the National Review thinks that the normally raucous anti-war groups, even Obama himself, have fallen deliberately silent.
The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.
Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well … One of our most gifted generals predicts the conflict will last “10 to 20 years.” And now comes news that the Pentagon is investigating whether intelligence assessments of ISIS have been manipulated for political reasons. “Analysts,” reports the Daily Beast, “have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is.” This sort of dishonesty helps no one — except a president whose primary concern is leaving office with his reputation for ending wars intact, and the military brass who wish to remain in his good graces.
The War — if one can call it that — exists without being acknowledged. China, South America, Russia, the border, inhabit the same limbo. These, like massive shadowy cliffs, have faded into an out of focus background under shallow depth of field coverage of the media lens. All we see sharply are the tiny, minutely defined candidates under a harsh glare. Occasionally actual events intrude in the form of attention-grabbing tragedies that have inexplicably multiplied.
We shudder at the sight of drowned Syrian children washing up on Libyan beaches; shake our heads at asphyxiated truckloads abandoned by people smugglers who took the money and ran; wonder at what the meltdown in China might portend. But we shudder without much understanding; these tragedies seem to have a kind of meteoric quality, arriving from parts unknown and vanishing to the same distant parts of the media solar system.