Saturday, October 31, 2009

How’s That Working Out for You President Obama?



Patriotic Americans who love their country were furious and embarrassed when President Obama began his administration by apologizing to various countries (especially Muslim countries and throughout Europe) for the supposed misdeeds and slights by past administrations. Some of this appalling behavior was conducted in the shadow of thousands of crosses and stars over the graves of American servicemen buried in Europe (a list of many of the countries freed by American soldiers is at the end of this piece). Then, to raise the level of ignorance and stupidity to new heights, Obama overturned decades of American commitment to freedom by remaining silent as Iranians were beaten and murdered in the streets as they sought free elections in their country.

Obama has also insulted our closest ally, Great Britain, over and over again, seriously frightened the Israelis, placed the Czech Republic and Poland in jeopardy (by canceling the missile treaty), cancelled the second ABM program, and, in general, caused our allies (particularly Sarkozy in France) to wonder aloud about his understanding of world affairs.

Liberals will never learn that peace treaties come from the barrel of a gun, and it is better for the world that we hold the gun. Unlike most other countries, we turn over the reins to local inhabitants once the bad guys are defeated and peace is established.

How have we and Obama been repaid for these reckless statements and this policy of outreach to various dictators? Our Iran policy is in tatters, Afghanistan is in flames, North Korea is thumbing its nose by shooting off missiles, and Venezuela is buying arms from Russia and getting ready to supply uranium to Iran.

It is always especially telling when a liberal publication publishes a piece like this:

The Tenacity Question

By DAVID BROOKS October 30, 2009 NY Times

Today, President Obama will lead another meeting to debate strategy in Afghanistan. He will presumably discuss the questions that have divided his advisers: How many troops to commit? How to define plausible goals? Should troops be deployed broadly or just in the cities and towns?

For the past few days I have tried to do what journalists are supposed to do.
I’ve called around to several of the smartest military experts I know to get their views on these controversies. I called retired officers, analysts who have written books about counterinsurgency warfare, people who have spent years in Afghanistan. I tried to get them to talk about the strategic choices facing the president. To my surprise, I found them largely uninterested.

Most of them have no doubt that the president is conducting an intelligent policy review. They have no doubt that he will come up with some plausible troop level.
They are not worried about his policy choices. Their concerns are more fundamental. They are worried about his determination.

These people, who follow the war for a living, who spend their days in military circles both here and in Afghanistan, have no idea if President Obama is committed to this effort. They have no idea if he is willing to stick by his decisions, explain the war to the American people and persevere through good times and bad.

Their first concerns are about Obama the man. They know he is intellectually sophisticated. They know he is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence.

But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.

Their second concern is political. They do not know if President Obama regards Afghanistan as a distraction from the matters he really cares about: health care, energy and education. Some of them suspect that Obama talked himself into supporting the Afghan effort so he could sound hawkish during the campaign. They suspect he is making a show of commitment now so he can let the matter drop at a politically opportune moment down the road.

Finally, they do not understand the president’s fundamental read on the situation. Most of them, like most people who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, believe this war is winnable. They do not think it will be easy or quick. But they do have a bedrock conviction that the Taliban can be stymied and that the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be strengthened. But they do not know if Obama shares this gut conviction or possesses any gut conviction on this subject at all.

The experts I spoke with describe a vacuum at the heart of the war effort — a determination vacuum. And if these experts do not know the state of President Obama’s resolve, neither do the Afghan villagers. They are now hedging their bets, refusing to inform on Taliban force movements because they are aware that these Taliban fighters would be their masters if the U.S. withdraws. Nor does President Hamid Karzai know. He’s cutting deals with the Afghan warlords he would need if NATO leaves his country.

Nor do the Pakistanis or the Iranians or the Russians know. They are maintaining ties with the Taliban elements that would represent their interests in the event of a U.S. withdrawal.

The determination vacuum affects the debate in this country, too. Every argument about troop levels is really a proxy argument for whether the U.S. should stay or go. The administration is so divided because the fundamental issue of commitment has not been settled.

Some of the experts asked what I thought of Obama’s commitment level. I had to confess I’m not sure either.

So I guess the president’s most important meeting is not the one with the Joint Chiefs and the cabinet secretaries. It’s the one with the mirror, in which he looks for some firm conviction about whether Afghanistan is worthy of his full and unshakable commitment. If the president cannot find that core conviction, we should get out now. It would be shameful to deploy more troops only to withdraw them later. If he does find that conviction, then he should let us know, and fill the vacuum that is eroding the chances of success.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has said that counterinsurgency is “an argument to win the support of the people.” But it’s not an argument won through sophisticated analysis. It’s an argument won through the display of raw determination.

Countries freed by US military action

Generally the dates given are when democratic elections were established or re-established, or some major constitutional change allowing such to occur.

Republic of Austria, 1945
France, 1945
Japan, 1946
Philippines, 1946
Greece, 1946
Italy, 1947
Netherlands, 1945
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Denmark, 1953
Republic of [South] Korea, 1948
Federal Republic of Germany, 1949
Guam, 1970
American Samoa, 1978
Grenada, 1984
Republic of Poland, 1989
German Democratic Republic (East Germany), 1990
Republic of Hungary, 1990
Republic of Bulgaria, 1991
Kuwait, 1991
Iraqi Kurdistan
Lithuania, 1992
Czech Republic, 1992
Republic of Slovakia, 1992
Latvia, 1994
Kosovo, 2000
Afghanistan, 2001
Iraq, 2002-ongoing


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