Obama’s time out to stall on a tough de­ci­sion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Obama has been tak­ing time out of his busy sched­ule of stalling on Afghanistan to spend hours on the golf course each Sun­day. Will some­body please in­form him that if he still wants to be­have as a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer with loads of time on his hands, the com­mu­nity that needs di­rec­tion is our mil­i­tary in Afghanistan. And that his gen­er­als are on Line 1.

In an as­ton­ish­ing ad­mis­sion on “60 Min­utes,” Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, Mr. Obama’s own choice to lead the coun­terin­sur­gency ef­fort in Afghanistan, said he has only spo­ken to the pres­i­dent once since tak­ing com­mand there.

Stunned, CBS re­porter David Martin made sure he had heard the gen­eral cor­rectly: “You’ve only talked to him once in 70 days?”

“That’s cor­rect,” Gen. McChrys­tal replied.

You can cut the irony with a knife be­cause it was Mr. Obama and his fel­low lib­er­als who re­lent­lessly at­tacked Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush for hav­ing no strat­egy for victory in Iraq and not lis­ten­ing to dis­sent­ing views from his gen­er­als, Congress and oth­ers.

Of course, Mr. Bush did con- tin­u­ally hear out dif­fer­ing view­points, speak reg­u­larly to his com­man­ders and ul­ti­mately set­tle on the surge strat­egy for Iraq, but that didn’t stop Democrats from blis­ter­ing him any­way. Per­haps it’s fi­nally dawn­ing on Mr. Obama that the pres­i­dency is dif­fi­cult and that Mr. Bush did the best he could, given the range of choices.

For two years, Mr. Obama spoke of Afghanistan as a “war of ne­ces­sity” that was ne­glected for “the wrong war” and the “war of choice” in Iraq. If elected pres­i­dent, he said, he would pri­or­i­tize Afghanistan, im­me­di­ately ef­fect­ing a “stronger, smarter and com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy.”

We can be for­given, then, for be­liev­ing that he ac­tu­ally hadsuch a strat­egy.

In March, Mr. Obama an­nounced that the new strat­egy was in ef­fect, but he didn’t iden­tify any specifics be­yond ac­cel­er­at­ing the troop buildup al­ready or­dered by Mr. Bush.

In June, he ap­pointed Gen. McChrys­tal to “carry out the new strat­egy.”

It didn’t take the new com­man­der long to fig­ure out that there was no new strat­egy, so he came up with one of his own and sub­mit­ted it to the Penta- gon, com­plete with a detailed coun­terin­sur­gency plan, in­clud­ing the re­quest for up to 40,000 ad­di­tional troops.

The White House did ev­ery­thing it could to stave off the troop re­quest in or­der to give Mr. Obama more time to fig­ure out what he wanted to do. This prompts the ques­tion: What has he been do­ing? The econ­omy and health care re­form have dom­i­nated his at­ten­tion, but to quote his own crit­i­cism of Sen. John McCain, the pres­i­dent’s job re­quires “deal­ing with more than one thing at once.”

The en­gage­ment in Afghanistan has been on­go­ing for eight years. For two of them, Mr. Obama cam­paigned on the as­ser­tion that he had a plan. Granted, the mud­dled and fraud-rid­den re­cent elec­tion in Afghanistan threw a mon­key wrench in the plan­ning, but the over­all mis­sion to dis­rupt the Tal­iban and elim­i­nate al Qaeda has not changed.

What has changed is Mr. Obama’s role from can­di­date to pres­i­dent. He is now re­spon­si­ble for the safety and se­cu­rity of 300 mil­lion Amer­i­cans and for a clear, winnable mis­sion for those who serve in uni­form.

Speak­ing only once in 70 days to the gen­eral over­see­ing a com­bat the­ater of op­er­a­tions is a dere­lic­tion of duty by the com­man­der in chief. Ex­tended Hamlet-like de­lib­er­a­tion while Amer­i­can lives are at stake is ex­ceed­ingly ir­re­spon­si­ble.

Mr. Obama looks as if he’s des­per­ately seek­ing the min­i­mum he can get away with. The pub­lic is turn­ing on the war, and his own party is in­creas­ingly op­posed to any new com­mit­ment there. Mr. Obama, like most of his Demo­cratic pre­de­ces­sors, finds mil­i­tary en­gage­ment anath­ema.

As a re­sult, re­cent Demo­cratic pres­i­dents tried to split the baby: or­der­ing a mil­i­tary mis­sion but do­ing it half­way — i.e. Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s Bos­nia cam­paign done to­tally from the air and the bomb­ing of an empty aspirin fac­tory in Su­dan.

Mr. Obama is get­ting rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent ad­vice: Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton agree with Gen. McChrys­tal on the need for a troop surge.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. ar­gues for a re­duc­tion of troop lev­els. With al Qaeda and the Tal­iban resur­gent, grow­ing U.S. ca­su­al­ties, and Amer­i­can lives in­creas- in­gly at risk, this is no time for the com­man­der in chief to be learn­ing on the job. Or hit­ting the links.

The Afghanistan war, like the Iraq war, can­not be done on the cheap. In or­der to press an ef­fec­tive coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­egy, the mil­i­tary needs its re­quested re­sources, a clear, de­fin­able mis­sion and a united front of un­wa­ver­ing sup­port from the com­man­der in chief and his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple need to see that Mr. Obama is com­mit­ted to de­feat­ing our en­e­mies there be­fore they can de­feat us here, and our en­e­mies need to see it, too. If our al­lies see it, they might be more in­clined to of­fer help, which is some­thing Mr. Obama promised he’d de­liver but so far has not.

Those who have been on the fair­way with Mr. Obama say he treats his golf game se­ri­ously and plays to win. If only we would see that same fierce drive for victory when it comes to our com­mit­ment in Afghanistan.

Mon­ica Crow­ley is a na­tion­ally syndicated ra­dio host, a pan­elist on “The McLaugh­lin Group” and a Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

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