I have more than given Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt on many foreign affair issues. I have made excuses for him regarding missing the 20th anniversary ceremonies at the Berlin Wall, and even defended his slow, methodical discussions regarding Afghanistan.
But anyone with any rational thinking whatsoever has to be getting really worried.
With the Berlin Wall Anniversary, I understand that it is more symbolism than substance. But Mr. Obama’s entire foreign policy is built solely on symbolism…the symbol that he, unlike his predecessor, is a man of the world.
In this case, Mr. Obama was blind to the reality of the world. European papers have been ripping Obama to shreds over his absence yesterday. The French, Polish, and English newspapers have been laughing at Obama all week for his ‘busy schedule’, basically joking that he is sitting in his office pondering his own greatness. Der Spiegel, a left leaning German paper, went even farther, basically stating that Mr. Obama skipped the ceremonies because the attention would not be on him:
There was one world leader absent for today’s commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Surprisingly enough, it’s President Barack Obama, who found time last year to give a campaign speech there last year, which Der Spiegel summed up as “People of the World, Look at Me”.The White House has cited a packed schedule, though looking at it he had nothing much on yesterday (brief chat to reporters about healthcare – by far his biggest priority) and just blah briefings and a bill signing today until a metting this evening with Benjamin Netanyahu. This time, Der Spiegel has reported it as “Barack Too Busy”.
And to illustrate the point, Mr. Obama sent a taped address to Germany that did not mention Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher, but did somehow refer to himself several times. “Few would have seen on that day that… that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent.” Um, who cares?
Obama’s 3 month walkabout on Afghanistan continues as well. He will begin discussing 5 options for Afghanistan. Ironically, only one of those is from the military itself (Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan, sent to him in July). Several news agencies had reported that Obama had decided on sending 34,000 troops (at the low end of what the military asked for), but that was quickly shot down by the White House. It likely was a trial balloon for the White House to see how the public would react.
The more time passes, the more and more one has to believe that this is more than just simple deliberative thought process that is holding up the decision. It is, in fact, indecision. Clearly his political advisors are divided, with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sec. of Defense Robert Gates both defending the military, and Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Joseph Biden (both of whom, incidentally, have been wrong on virtually every foreign affair crisis over the past quarter century) asking for a much smaller military footprint in Afghanistan.
The decision making on Afghanistan and the Pakistan border is difficult, but not that difficult. The first logical question is whether the war is worth fighting; Obama has answered that in the affirmative on multiple times, and has clearly stated that he will not pull out of Afghanistan. O.K., taking that into consideration, the second question is how to achieve victory? That is not a political question, like the initial question is. It is a purely military one. Once you have decided a war is worth fighting for and winning, the military must be given the tools to win the war outright. Correct?
I criticized former V.P. Dick Cheney when he said Obama was ‘dithering’ on the Afghanistan decision. I take back the criticism. At this point, Obama frankly has no excuses left. The Afghan election, for better or worse, is over. Hamid Karzai is the leader, and he is who we have to deal with. Afghanistan never has been or never will be the ideal situation. For Obama and his cohorts to hope for that is a waste of time. Obama is left with the war we have, not the war he would choose. And the time to choose has come and gone.
Frankly, these two scenarios have to be worrisome. In general, even during last year’s election, I thought Obama was a pragmatist on foreign affairs. I no longer believe that. He is a political animal first and foremost. Berlin did not give him any political points, so he skipped it all together. Afghanistan is full of potholes, and has nothing but negative political future potential, and thus he cannot make a decision. Presidents are ultimately the Commander in Chief. It is time that Barack Obama acted like it.