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The War President

October 25, 2011

Could it be that Barak Obama is proving to be a better at handling foreign wars than at domestic politics? As a war president he has racked up a string of successes that can only be considered remarkable.

He has ended one of America’s longest and most disastrous foreign adventures. Now that it has concluded, can anyone remember what it was about that caused us to spend a trillion dollars and cost us the lives of almost 5000 americans as well as the lives of untold numbers of Iraqis and others. Was it, weapons of mass destruction, regime change, oil or something else?

He has ended this sad chapter in American adventurism not as a defeat, as in Vietnam or a stalemate like Korea, but with American honor relatively intact despite the insane mismanagement of it by the prior administration; the one that got us into it in the first place.

In Afghanistan, where the pursuit of those who destroyed the World Trade Center provided some conceivable rational for invasion, he has acted with firmness and a certain amount of political courage to try to salvage the nation from the blunders and criminal mismanagement of another war he had inherited.

While grappling with this inherited mess, he has managed to begin the destruction of America’s perceived enemies by eliminating Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and yes even Moammar Gaddafi while encouraging the demands for freedom among the people of the Near and Middle-east.

True, this going around killing people here and there leaves me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. But think if we could have sent in a drone to kill Hitler in 1939 how many lives could have been saved.

Recently, I read that one or two conservative commentators have criticized the President because killing someone by drone, by proxy or by Americans trained for surgical operations like these was not manly enough.

Now, while I certainly have qualms about government sanctioned killing in any form, that is just silly. I suspect the people who say that believed that bombing innocent villagers from B-52’s was manly and that the chicken hawks of the Bush administration who never found a war they would be willing to fight in themselves, were models of American manhood. Frankly, I personally believe, no one should be able to authorize national warfare unless he or she has actually served on the front lines, experienced enemy fire and seen comrades die.

What I see possibly emerging can be labeled the “Obama Doctrine.” It appears to be something like this: we will not put troops on the ground or expend massive amounts of treasure unless a significant attack by the armies of a foreign power is imminent. Nevertheless, where we believe our fundamental interests, or the inalienable rights of others are threatened, we reserve the right to intervene by first seeking international commitment in money and material, then supporting those with like goals followed if needed by the minimum force necessary.

It should have always been clear that any major power who, unless directly attacked by equivalent might, uses direct force by inserting armies into lands beyond their border engender unacceptable risks to the nation’s power and treasure unless, it has 1.) a specific achievable goal and duration (and cost); 2.) all other options have been explored and exhausted and; 3.) victory is a certitude (not confidence but practical certitude).

Great Powers who disregarded these rule have often fallen not because of any defeat on the battlefield but because of economic exhaustion at home.

We violated these rules in Vietnam and Iraq and have paid the price. A heavy price that has us teetering on the brink of losing our undisputed economic and military leadership in the world.

One Comment
  1. My thoughts of Obama the war president.

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