Monday, March 28, 2011
The Education of Barack Obama
By Alan Caruba
Just over two years ago when Barack Obama was sworn into office, he might have needed help to find Libya on the map and Muammar Gadhafi was just another Middle Eastern despot.
Despite a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, I doubt he had any idea that the Maghreb of north African nations, from Tunisia to Egypt, or that Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain would be in varying states of turmoil, but neither did anyone else. He had little to say during the protests against Iran’s mullahs.
The last thing Obama wanted was to be a “war President.”
Even in his address to the nation regarding the U.S. intervention in Libya, he could not resist chiding his predecessor. “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq,” he said without naming George W. Bush, his favorite fall-back position for blame. Then he added that the war in Iraq has lasted eight years, cost thousands of lives, and a trillion dollars. The one in Vietnam lasted almost as long and was just as costly.
Unmentioned was his decision to not only remain in Afghanistan where the U.S. has been since 2001, but he increased our troop strength—just as former President Bush did with the “surge” that turned things around in Iraq. The result of Obama’s decision has been to keep al Qaeda on the run and a continuing effort to degrade the Taliban. Unsaid is the fact that guerrilla wars are generally long, drawn-out, and often inconclusive.
The conduct of war is the job the Constitution assigns to the President by also authorizing him to be the Commander-in-Chief. Obama, the community organizer, is uncomfortable with this responsibility, but he put those skills to use to pull together a coalition, get a U.N. resolution, and let loose the dogs of war, if only from the skies.
What he failed to do was consult with the Congress and either ask for or get a resolution of support. He’s supposed to do that, but the former university lecturer on the Constitution either forgot that or decided to ignore it. That, however, is a very bad precedent.
“I refused to wait for images of slaughter and mass graves,” he said and, frankly, I believe him. He drew on the lessons of former President Clinton’s difficulty to get the U.S. involved in stopping the ethnic cleansing in Serbia and Bosnia.
The reluctant war President, however, took pains to tell Americans that “The U.S. will play a supportive role” in Libya’s liberation and only the seriously uninformed could believe that tall tale. There is no military action in Libya without the U.S., now and into the unknown future.
In almost an aside, Obama spoke of Iran, “where change is fiercely oppressed.” He hasn’t had much to say of Iran and this suggests he wanted to send some kind of message to the ayatollahs that he was keeping an eye on them as he should. They are gearing up to make events infinitely worse in the Middle East.
What Obama has discovered—and should have known—is that America has been the world’s policeman since the end of World War II way back in 1945. It’s the reason that former President Truman ordered U.S. troops into the field when North Korea attacked South Korea. It’s the reason Americans happily elected a former five-star general, Ike Eisenhower, to guide the nation when he promised “I will go to Korea” to personally inspect the demilitarized zone.
“We should not be afraid to act,” said Obama regarding the various unpleasant choices we have before us and those that are sure to come and then he emphasized “collective action”, falling back into his favorite role as an organizer, rather than a warrior.
In truth, Obama is not a warrior. Unlike many prior presidents he never wore the uniform of his nation and he clearly finds war distasteful, a distraction from imposing domestic change on Americans who have proven resistant and who are likely to send him home to Chicago in 2012.
“We welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East,” the President said. Somehow I doubt that. For decades this nation has been more than happy with the status quo in the Middle East so long as the oil flowed. Those days are over.
It was a decent enough speech that touched on all the key points. Gadhafi is a despot. He threatened his people. Our interests and values are at stake. All the things one would expect him to say, but none of the fire, the “bring’m on” swagger we have missed since 9/11. Like him or not, George W. Bush made us feel safe. Obama makes us feel tentative.
America has real enemies and, frankly, I want them to be very afraid of us. They were once, but when even a cockroach like Gadhafi thinks we won’t or can’t kill him, I want his head on a pike for all the rest of the world to see.
© Alan Caruba, 2011