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Last weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris drove home a reality Western leaders have been trying to avoid: The barbarism of the Islamic State and other such fanatics will not wither under a patient strategy of containment, and the ideology that fuels their brutality can’t be negotiated away.

France got the wake-up call. Its left-wing President Francois Hollande has transformed into a war hawk, at least for the moment, declaring the terrorism an act of war and pledging a “pitiless war” in return. Immediately he ordered an escalation in bombing runs on Islamic State strongholds, taking out key targets within hours of the Paris carnage.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin, too, has stepped up. After confirming ISIS was responsible for the bomb that brought down a Russian plane, it unleashed a relentless aerial assault against Islamic State targets in Syria, flying more than 2,000 sorties over the past week.

And the United States? President Barack Obama blustered a bit about the unacceptability of terrorism and then hung a Do Not Disturb sign on the Oval Office door. While other world leaders ramp up for the unavoidable showdown with ISIS, Obama is busy plotting the war on global warming.

The president’s behavior in the week since Paris confirms the words of one commentator, who described Obama as “living in a world of denial and naivete.”

When asked whether the United States will lead the ISIS eradication, the president mocked the assumption, saying he’s not interested “in posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever ...”

He then sent the Islamic State an unequivocal assurance that it would not be facing American combat troops, continuing to push the myth that ISIS can be defeated without a substantial ground effort by Western forces.

Why the president would pre-emptively telegraph the limitations of U.S. involvement is unclear. But it fits into the reluctance and restraint that has marked his approach to Islamist terrorism.

Obama is worried about civilian casualties, so he restricts bombing runs. He’s worried about offending Iran, so he limits support to the Sunni militias. He’s worried about insulting the Saudis, so he won’t hold them to account for breeding terror. He’s worried about his legacy, so he won’t commit the ground forces necessary to establish safe zones in Syria. He’s worried about insulting Muslims, so won’t utter the words Islamist terrorism.

What he doesn’t seem worried about is the real possibility that ISIS will export its terror to the United States, just as it has to France.

Obama has been able to be so passive because of the effectiveness of his blame Bush strategy, which says because George W. Bush started this mess, neither he nor his surrogate, Hillary Clinton, bear any responsibility for making it worse.

Leave a void in Iraq that enables ISIS to rise? Not our fault. Allow Libya to fall into chaos? Not our fault.

But if ISIS hits here the way it did in Paris, the blame will rest with a president who fiddled with the Earth’s thermostat while the Islamists were burning it up.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

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