There's no doubt about it, Barack Obama is a reluctant warrior. He's cautious about committing American forces to battle, and equally cautious about ordering military actions that are likely to result in substantial civilian casualties for the other side.
In other words, he brings a pro-life point of view to the table when assessing the efficacy of military action. That should meet with the approval of those on the right, who call themselves pro-life.
But, alas, such is not the case. Their interest in life peaks between conception and birth. Thereafter, it tanks precipitously.
The right equates leadership with a strong jaw, a steady gaze, and a good-looking suit. A strong leader identifies forces of evil, and calls them out.
Reagan was perfect. He identified the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire”. He stood in front of the Berlin Wall and told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. When Reagan left office, the wall was standing.
When our Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was hit in April of 1983 and 69 people were killed, Reagan was resolute. Four months later, the Marine Barracks, also in Beirut, was hit with the loss of 244 American service personnel. Reagan vowed not to be “cowed by terrorists”. Four months later, we were out of Lebanon with no retaliatory response.
We're talking Benghazi 78 times over. Could you imagine if that had happened on Jimmy Carter's watch, or Barack Obama's? A strong jaw and a steady gaze forgives a lot of sins.
In the view of the right, George Bush II was a strong leader. He wasn't quite at the Reagan level, but he had swagger and he wore cowboy boots. Plus, he called out evil … Axis of Evil, no less.
When Bush got a CIA briefing at his ranch on August 6, 2001 that said that Al Qaeda was going to attack in the US, Bush told the briefer from the CIA, “You've covered your ass. You can go home.” Bush continued on his vacation for 24 more days … clearing brush and chopping wood ... no effete and feckless golf for GWB.
Twelve days after he returned to Washington, the World Trade Center was hit.
Bush paid no political price for his cavalier lack of concern for the intelligence warnings he received in advance of 9/11. Yet, the right is all over Obama for not being on top of the ISIS threat, which to date has killed three Americans.
Five days after 9/11, Bush stood in the rubble of the Trade Center buildings and said, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear from us shortly.” Six months later, Bush didn't even want to talk about Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was hard to find, and when they found him, they let him get away.
Besides, Bush had bigger fish to fry. The neo cons were in his ear. They wanted to kick some ass in Iraq. For one thing, it was a target-rich environment. One could do some serious killing. That's leadership. What could go wrong?
So, Obama comes along and gets the guy who got us, ends the necessary war in Afghanistan and the stupid war in Iraq, and the right says he can't lead. What's up with the right?
Last night (October 7, 2014), Bill O'Reilly had former Secretary of the Defense Leon Panetta on as a guest. They talked about the raid to take down Bin Laden. Panetta was complimentary of Obama's role in approving the operation and giving it the go-ahead.
O'Reilly was dismissive. “Anybody could have done that.”
John McCain wouldn't have done that. He said so in the 2008 campaign. Obama said he would, if he had actionable intelligence, go into another country and take out Bin Laden. He said he would do it, and he did it.
Stop for a moment and think if the plan had gone bad. There could have been a leak; a trap; Bin Laden could have been gone. We could have lost a dozen SEAL Team members. Now imagine the outrage of Billy (Blowhard) O'Reilly. “How could Obama have been so stupid? He's not a leader! No true leader of men would have sent them into another country in such a perilous situation. Impeach him!”
Further, in the Panetta interview, O'Reilly demonstrated that he's either dumb or dishonest for criticizing Obama's “colossal blunder” for not leaving at least 10,000 American troops in Iraq.
Listen up, Bill, we don't leave our troops anywhere unless the host government signs a Status of Forces Agreement, under which it is agreed that our military personnel will be subject to US Military Justice if they commit a crime under local law. The American public would never stand for a US soldier being hauled before a foreign court to answer for an action that may not even be a crime in the United States.
If O'Reilly didn't know that, he should find a different line of work. If he did know about the necessity of a Status of Forces Agreement, his failure to mention that in the Panetta interview while accusing Obama of a "colossal blunder" was deceptive and unethical at best.
The fact is, the Obama administration did try to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that would have left a residual force. Given the politics of Iraq at that time, no Iraqi government could have survived if it executed such an agreement.
They wouldn't sign. We had to go.
Today's Wall Street Journal (October 8, 2014) editorial takes Obama to task because he hasn't degraded and destroyed ISIS yet. For that reason, the editorial concludes, “America's word isn't what it used to be.”
America's word certainly wasn't what it used to be when Ronald Reagan cut and ran from Lebanon after we were hit twice in four months and had vowed “not to be cowed by terrorists”.
America's word certainly wasn't what it used to be when George Bush stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center and vowed to get the people “who knocked down these buildings” and then didn't get them.
Barack Obama got the guy who knocked down those buildings. He upheld “America's word”. He did it the right way. The target was killed. No innocent civilians were killed. All US personnel got out alive.
That's the Obama way. The pro-life approach to military action … surgical, limited, and purposeful.
Obama said at West Point that he would commit American forces when our “core interests” are involved. If John McCain and Lindsey Graham want more and bigger wars, have Congress declare them. They don't need Barack Obama's permission.
It's in the Constitution. Check it out. Have at it.
I will post again on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.