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Opinion

Can Congress be responsible?

WASHINGTON — There was a moment in the last quarter-century when the Congress of the United States made the nation proud. It did so across all its usual lines of division: Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal, hawk and dove.

Short on firepower

In launching two previous wars in Iraq, the United States assembled formidable coalitions of dozens of countries. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Oman were among the Arab states that deployed substantial ground forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Though derided by some as a “unilateral” U.S. action, the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was supported by troops from 39 countries, nine of which deployed more than 1,000 soldiers.

Dove Obama makes a reluctant hawk

As he offered to the nation his prescription for the most recent Middle East crisis, President Barack Obama reminded me of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather: Part III.” “Just when I thought I was out,” sighed the young mob boss about his efforts to leave the family business, “they pull me back in.”

Scotland’s epic vote

WASHINGTON — Tucking into a dish of Scottish haggis is not a task for the fainthearted. There are various haggis recipes, but basically it is sheep’s pluck — the heart, lungs and liver — cooked together, then mixed with suet and oatmeal and boiled in a sheep’s stomach, then served, sometimes drenched with Scotch. People who pour whisky on oatmeal are not shrinking violets. Remember this on Thursday when Scotland votes on independence from the United Kingdom.

EU surprises Putin for once with new, sensible sanctions

For the first time since Russia annexed Crimea six months ago, the European Union has surprised President Vladimir Putin instead of the other way around. Despite a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, and despite Russia’s apparent withdrawal of troops from the region, the EU decided Thursday morning to impose new sanctions on Russia, starting Friday.

Obama’s careful war

WASHINGTON — The most compelling and encouraging parts of President Barack Obama’s Islamic State speech — his intention to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy, his pledge to hunt down its fighters and deny them “safe haven,” his moral clarity on their “acts of barbarism” — also sounded least like Obama. Everyone — and I mean just about everyone on the planet — knows that he was more comfortable declaring that America had moved “off a permanent war footing” and that the war on terrorism, “like all wars, must end.”

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Too detached to lead?

WASHINGTON — Having once served a president, I don’t begrudge any president a vacation. There is, in fact, no escape from this relentless job. A change of scenery does not involve a change in responsibilities, or even a release from the essence of the president’s routine. The intelligence briefings stalk him. Presidential respites are measured in hours, not days or weeks — say, a few hours on a golf course. And the public would be selfish and shortsighted to demand those downtime hours, which are necessary for humans to function.

Doubling down on failure

When President Obama announced in 2011 the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, he was sanguine about that nation’s future. U.S. soldiers could be “proud of their success,” he said, and he was “confident” that Iraqis would “build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization.”

Obamacare, beyond the label

WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a slam dunk issue for the Republicans in this fall’s elections. Karl Rove told us so in April, writing that “Obamacare is and will remain a political problem for Democrats.”

Islamic State must be stopped

Americans awoke Wednesday to a gruesome video, showing an Islamic State executioner beheading James Foley, an American. A grim President Barack Obama interrupted his vacation to condemn this act of savagery, aptly calling the Islamic State “a cancer” that must be eradicated.

No time to lead from behind

WASHINGTON — Responding to the horrifying murder of photojournalist James Foley, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, “ISIL (the Islamic State) and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed.” President Obama said, “people like this ultimately fail.” The first is a pledge; the second an observation. Obama remains a rhetorical spectator to events in Iraq and Syria he does not want to own, and that he believes America has a limited ability to influence.