This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," September 27, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," American bombs begin falling in Syria as President Obama attempts to rally the world against ISIS. We'll look at the campaign and the coalition so far.
Plus, a look back at Eric Holder's polarizing tenure at the Department of Justice and the political legacy he leaves behind.
And it's being billed as the greatest challenge of our time. Is a global climate deal coming? And what would it do to American energy prices?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's going to be no reasoning, no negotiation with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama this week sounding a lot like his predecessor during an address to the United Nations General Assembly. The president's call for action against ISIS came as an American-led bombing campaign began in Syria striking dozens of Islamic State targets as well as the Khorasan branch of al Qaeda that officials say have been planning attacks on the United States.
Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens; and editorial board member, Matt Kaminski.
So, Matt, what do you make of the military campaign so far?
MATT KAMINSKI, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Well, it's very important that he's done this, first of all. It is --
GIGOT: You think it's a good thing to do?
KAMINSKI: Absolutely. He put it well in that speech. It's important he's managed to create a coalition of Arab states, much more symbolically important, so we're not alone doing this but other Arab countries are involved in the fight. The sort of problem that's raised here, what is the overall strategy for Obama and for the U.S.
GIGOT: That's what I want to talk about. Because the bombing campaign started I think more aggressively than some people thought it would, Bret.
BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: Yeah, but not as aggressively as it needed to be. But that's to say there was a -- I mean, there was a ramping up and clearly there were a number of strikes over the weekend against Syria. You have a major problem, and I don't think the Pentagon understands the value of the shock-and-awe campaign against a group being turbo charged within Syria and Iraq by the perception that it is advancing. You saw this week the Islamic State continuing to make major gains against the Iraqi army. So we are deluding ourselves if we think we now have begun to contain this problem. We haven't. They will continue to make gains. And they will make gains precisely in those places where it's most difficult for us to hit them, especially in major cities.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: You know, I think you have to listen closely these days to President Obama when he speaks to get the sense of what he wants to do. As Matt said, there seems to be no strategic vision but he said we are on the march against a, quote, "network of death."
GIGOT: Well, he says his strategy, his goal is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. These bombing attacks degrade ISIS.
GIGOT: Why is that not consistent with his strategy?
HENNINGER: Well, for two reasons. In your introduction, you mentioned a word before last week was unfamiliar to everyone, Khorasan.
That was a group it turns out that was plotting to bomb subways in the West and in the United States, meaning New York and Washington. And last week, Algerian Islamic militants beheaded a French guide, who they grabbed up in the mountains there. So there's yet another group in the same game as ISIS, which means we're not just attacking one group in northern Iraq and Syria but a series, a network, as he put it.
GIGOT: I don't get you guys. What do you want him to do? What do you think would be a strategy that would succeed?
KAMINSKI: I think it's important -- Iran, for example, has a strategy in the region. It is to support and pump up the regime in Syria, push back the Saudis, encircle Saudis, and push this sort of Iranian Shia wave through the Middle East. That's a big strategy. President Obama, yes, he wants to degrade ISIS, but what do we want to see him do in Syria? Do we want to see Assad toppled? Will we do anything to topple Assad? What is a strategy for Iraq and how to put that country back together?
GIGOT: The thing with Iraq to work with the Kurds in the north and to work with the Iraqi army and build up a new national guard of Sunni warriors to be able to do more on ground as a companion to what we do in the air.
Now, I agree that ground forces, American ground forces, advisors, special forces, killers at night, the way McChrystal did in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be far better, but if President Obama is not going to do is that, isn't this the next best thing?
STEPHENS: No, because essentially, unless we're beating ISIS and beating them decisively, they are going to gaining ground. The basic problem here is that Obama seems intent on deploying the minimum amount of force necessary to at least begin to achieve the objective. That approach is a grave mistake. Actually, we saw it in Iraq in 2003. Remember some of the Democratic criticism coming from General Shinseki's about our initial approach into Iraq --
GIGOT: Inadequate force.
STEPHENS: Exactly. We needed massive force up front, not at the back end. So the problem here is he's sending a kind of uncertain signal. It's not clear how long this is going to last. We still have the question of congressional authorization, maybe two months down the road for the broader strategy of arming the Free Syrian Army. You need a president who makes it much more clear that he's intent to lead and deploy American forces in the numbers necessary.
GIGOT: Democracies, as we know, are not very good at supporting long wars. We loose patience. People begin to see political opportunity and opposition in the costs. Is the president taking a risk here when the advisers say this is going to be a long campaign that may extend beyond his presidency?
HENNINGER: There's real political risk inside the United States. I mean, there are Democrats, like Congressman Adam Schiff of California, a prominent member, a spokesman for the Democratic Party on foreign affairs, who is saying, we need a vote in December to authorize what's going on there. But the Democrats are talking about an authorization that lasts for one year. They don't want -- they want to put a deadline on it. There are Republicans who would sign on to something like that. This will take much longer than a year. He's on thin ice.
GIGOT: Matt, you met with some foreign officials this week. What do they think of the effort so far?
KAMINSKI: There's a lot of bad feeling from what happened last year on Syria when President Obama said he would bomb the Assad regime to enforce his red line. People like the French went out in support, a real political risk and then he changed his mind. There's not that much trust there that he's willing to do this right.
GIGOT: President has to show he's willing to stick with this.
When we come back, Attorney General Eric Holder resigns, capping a tumultuous six years as the Justice Department. A look back at his controversial tenure and a look ahead to who might replace him, next.