WHAT'S A PRESIDENT TO DO?
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 09 October 2009
President Obama, like him or not--arguably the least qualified man to ever be elected to the office of the presidency--and positioning himself to surpass Jimmy Carter as among the worst, is having a rough go of it these days. His competency is being questioned. That seems a bit of a stretch at this juncture for, despite his radical, polarizing views and discombobulated "reform" efforts, the man deserves a fair shake. After all, he was legitimately elected president and has quite a full plate--much of it inherited. That's not making excuses for him--simply fact. If incompetent, he will prove it. Besides, presidential "deaths" are most compelling when done by their own hand.
But, there is no question he is learning charisma and slick rhetoric only go so far--and that is not very--when you are the man sitting in the Oval Office. Sooner or later, as president, you are going to have to lead. As anyone who has ever been in charge of anything knows--it is lonely at the top. There is nowhere to hide and the weak do not survive.
Less than a year ago Americans (the dopey ones anyway) and foreigners alike--particularly leaders of our enemy states--were cooing and purring over the 'chosen one.' Barak Obama was the cat's meow--so he and his adulating mobs believed. He still does. So do some of his closest sidekicks. American mobs are dwindling. Foreign leaders are giggling. American infatuation is explainable--the next shiny thing always attracts the attention of the self-absorbed--buy first then regret. A refund is not always a remedy--and is not in this case--as some of the disenchanted are finding out. The foreign infatuation is also explainable. They, particularly the leaders, know a pigeon when they see one. And they are a happy, happy lot these days. Post-election presidential apologies abroad merely validated their suspicions and their dreams are coming true. They are giving Obama all he can handle; and then some. FOB's (Friends of Barak's)? Not hardly.
With each passing day, Obama is realizing there is a big difference between being candidate teleprompter tough and possessing and exercising the authority to be tough. Across the spectrum of issues on his desk, the president--clearly uncomfortable with confrontation--has not appeared to be especially confident, decisive, or strong. That is the public perspective (regardless of your news source)--accurate or not. And not surprisingly, the opinion polls, the independent respectable ones that is, regarding job performance are not so favorable.
His war in Afghanistan is increasingly problematic--the general in charge says things are "deteriorating"; Iran is, for all intents and purposes, giving him (and the rest of the world) the finger and complementing the offensive digit with an "F you, bro" (good thing White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is fluent in sign and Farsi--at least profanity, and can on-the-spot translate) over their "big toy" aspirations; healthcare reform is not setting well with the masses--despite desperate snake oil pitches; the International Olympic Committee completely forgot their manners failing to extend so much as a token first or second runner-up to the United States as host nation (why would a sitting president appear for any other reason than to accept host nation honors?); the economy remains wobbly with unemployment tenuous; he's not free and clear of ACORN scrutiny yet; and though at present petty news, compared to the rest, closing Guantanamo Bay is not so easy. And the list goes on.
Topping the current events list is the war in Afghanistan and such will be the focus for the rest of this Commentary.
President Obama said, "This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity." With the logical deduction being, 'This is a war we must win.'
It's more than interesting--and a whole lot troubling--that we are waging war in some God-forsaken, ass-backwards country half-way around the planet, and U. S. and NATO forces are being wounded and killed in combat, that in Monday's "The Desert Sun" there is no mention of the fighting and casualties until page A-9--and it's a short five paragraph story discreetly positioned to barely catch the eye. (The rest of the week's papers have not been much better.)
Now contrast that with the nearly quarter-page article (above the fold) on page A-3--augmented with a color photo (Capitol in the background with an advocate holding a sign in the foreground)--addressing Obama and his lack of immediate action to reverse "Don't ask don't tell"--to permit homosexuals to openly serve in the military.
Wasn't it Arsenio Hall who coined the phrase, "Things that make you go hmmmmm!"? Sure, it makes perfect sense--homosexuals openly serving in the military--another left wing social experiment--is far more newsworthy than covering war heroes battling those determined to kill us all. Right! Hmmmmm. Good grief.
Afghanistan, a war in its eighth year, in a small, small nutshell...
Six months ago, after a comprehensive review, the president personally approved an integrated strategy of "counterinsurgency"--that is, confronting bad guys, tackling an over-haul of government, fighting corruption, and stimulating economic development--to fight a necessary (regional) war; not one of choice. Remember, his words, "...not a war of choice...a war of necessity." He relieved a general and put his man, General Stanley McChrystal, in charge to make the strategy happen.
General McChrystal assumed command and soon realized he did not have near the resources necessary to accomplish the president's strategy. As it absolutely should be, the general's loyalty is to the men and women in uniform he leads--their mission, his country, and his conscious. New force requirements (reported to be some 40,000 more troops etc.) were recently sent up the chain of command (and leaked to the press). I'll not bother to comment on the lack (none until recently) of one-on-one communication--which would have preempted any surprises--between Obama and his field commander. That's another Commentary.
As usual, politicians--Representatives and Senators, political appointees, presidential advisors, generals, and retired generals in positions of authority (e.g. National Security Advisor) and influence, et.al. do not agree on the new force requirements. The spectrum of opinions range from pull out of Afghanistan (the goofiest) to give General McChrystal, the duty expert on what he's facing, exactly what he asks for (the logical, sane) to everything in between. This past Sunday morning's political talk shows were a circus. "Expert" sniping--in a "gentlemanly" manner, of course--at "expert." I'm not so sure any of them were "expert" on anything relevant to the issue at hand. The two true "experts," Generals McChrystal and Petraeus (US CENTCOM)--successful winning the war in Iraq, did not contribute to the discussions I saw. The morning was amusing if not entertaining--but not funny; particularly to those in the midst of gunfights in Afghanistan. The Washington "debate" continues. So do the gunfights.
What is troublesome, now that the Administration has been given a heaping dose of reality, is that things in Afghanistan may become an even bigger quagmire under the guise of (the Administration's) new "Strategic Assessment." With the fundamental question being: Will the "Assessment" meet political expediency supported by hogwash rationale iced with Beltway doubletalk or reflect reality on the ground that must be dealt with to win and ultimately strengthen U. S. security and safety--the reason we are in Afghanistan? Anyone out there holding your breath? And the question begging to be asked, "How did the initial strategy, approved by the president, so grossly underestimate force requirements?"
The president does not have much of a choice. He harped over and over again on the campaign trail, and since winning the election, that the real war was in Afghanistan and the surrounding region (not Iraq)--that is where our sworn enemies--the brutal Taliban providing top cover for al Qaeda--are hiding, planning, and training to do us harm. And that is accurate. Has anything changed? Not really. Yes, a bunch of bad guys, courtesy of our military, have been dispatched to Allah. But there are many cockroaches, rats, and sundry vermin yet to terminate. The extermination business is good.
Not all but many of the bad guys have run for the borders to hide out and wait for an opening to return and resume business (some are already returning hence the "deteriorating" situation). That is, they are waiting to see what the U. S.--Barak Obama--is going to do. This point most seasoned senior military officers and senior politicians familiar with the region agree on.
What is the president to do? Keep in mind, that while he ponders--hesitates may be more accurate, under-strength U. S. and NATO forces are being harassed, ambushed, and attacked by a growing insurgency. Injuries and deaths are climbing. How would he resolve switching from a carefully formulated macro strategy (that required months and months and months to craft) to a narrower one (weeks to craft) of "counterterrorism?" And, that switch not have all the appearances of being a retreat driven by startling force requirements and mere personal political survival concerns? So bluntly, does the ground scenario and long-range U. S. objectives drive the fight requirements or not?! At this writing, reports are Obama is not considering a move towards a narrower strategy. Time will tell.
So, we'll soon see yet more of what this man--our president--is made of. By supporting his theater commander, fully--hence his (Obama's) original approved strategy, he can make quite a statement. For certain he will be backing his own words. And, General McChrystal can make a statement once he has his necessary force in place. From both men, such would send a no nonsense message to the world.
Afghanistan aside, Iran and North Korea--a couple of the more dangerous rouge nations currently taunting Obama--are in dire need of a stern, clear message. Face it--the world is a mean place--the strong survive. Fools, wimps, and pussies think and believe otherwise. Never mind a skittish tom cat, our adversaries need to see and hear a riled, hissing snake--one poised to strike--forewarning, "Don't Tread On Me." That message has historical significance. Most likely there's a good history book or two--complete with pictures (I posted one to the left of this text should they opt to read this Commentary)--in the White House for handy reference. And just such a show of strength may favorably influence a few other problems abroad and at home.
No one need like the president to expect him to do what is right--thereby him earning respect. Like and respect are mutually exclusive. Infatuation, blind love, and strong-arm mandated obedience are dangerous--that's how cults and regimes operate. Keep at least one eye wide open and maintain an open mind, folks. Think for yourself.
President Obama clearly stated we must win the war in Afghanistan. He ordered the execution of a comprehensive strategy to win. He hand-picked the general to do the job. To not provide all necessary assets--including warriors--to his commander on the ground to win would be unconscionable. To change the mission, though nothing on the ground has changed, and recklessly lose lives and the war for personal political reasons would be criminal. Both circumstances would jeopardize our homeland's security--they would be treasonous. Should such become reality, impeachment proceedings must not be far behind.
As for today's Commentary title, "What's A President To Do?" It's simple--"lead." It's the president's only job. Enough hand-wringing. Mr. President, you better win this war--and decisively. Lose it and you are history.