Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Unpresident

Well, I'm back. I have temporarily emerged from my self-imposed blog exile to address a series of actions that are so egregious I could no longer resist. I am referring to a series of actions that threaten America's security and represent the essence of what is tearing this country apart.

Whatever the actual facts, Osama bid Laden is held to be the mastermind behind 9/11 as well as other terrorist actions. Whatever his practical and financial role recently, he is still widely regarded as the symbol of totalitarian Islam and is a hero to radical terrorists throughout the world. Killing someone of his stature is an act of justice and serves as a stark warning to America's enemies.

Whatever actually happened, let's assume that there was a military operation that killed bin Laden. I don't take this assumption lightly as I have not seen any physical evidence that proves this assertion. But for the purpose of this post, it doesn't really matter.

How should this have been handled?

First, to fully take advantage of the intelligence supposedly obtained at the site, you would wait to announce.

Second, you would make one of two choices. You either release photos or you don't. Which you choose doesn't matter, as long as you choose and stick by your decision. For example, say you choose not to release photos, you could make a statement such as this:

"Two weeks ago, American armed forces completed a mission in which Osama bin Laden was killed. In order to protect our personnel and further our interests, details of this mission will remain classified. I have shared the details of this operation with leaders of the appropriate Congressional committees and the identity of the assailants have been established beyond a reasonable doubt. I do not care if anyone believes this. My job is to protect Americans. I am satisfied and the military is satisfied that he is dead, and so if you want to find him, go for it. In the meantime, we will continue to our efforts to crush the opposition, etc."

Or, let's say you wanted to release the photos, you could say:

"...I have decided to release photos in order to remove any doubt about the identity of the assailant as well as to serve notice to all of America's enemies that this is the fate that awaits you if you threaten or kill Americans..."

Note that the decision doesn't really matter. What matters is that a firm decision is made and the appropriate message sent.

So what did Obama actually do?

As soon as the announcement was made, rational skepticism abounded in public. This is not surprising given the president's track record of policies that can only be characterized (conservatively) as anti-American as well as the fact that his own history and evidently, even the location of his birth, is shrouded in mystery. The administration publicly groused about the likely torrent of "conspiracy theories" as leaks surfaced about the internal debate between Pannetta who favored release and Clinton and Gates who opposed it.

And what were the reasons given for these concerns? First, they expressed concern that releasing the photos would incite more terrorism. If this were true, then the local police should keep courts, jails, and the death penalty a secret. After all, if they announced that perpetrators of crimes would be punished, it might incite criminals to perpetrate more crimes, right?! Evidently, when terrorists think we are really nice guys that won't defend ourselves or attack them, they will be way less likely to attack us, right?! This line of thinking is so preposterous, it's hard to believe it warrants any serious consideration.

The second concern seemed to relate to offending Muslim sensibilities, or something like that. Let me submit that if the news of bin Laden's gruesome execution provokes a feeling of anything less than unadulterated joy then not only do you deserve to be offended, you should be investigated by the government and a team of psychiatrists! Anyone that regards bin Laden as someone to be idolized or revered and thus likely to be offended by news of his death, deserves to be offended and a lot more!

There are legitimate military reasons not to release the photos. Fine, see my statement above. But to flounder on the basis of such inane and morally contradictory premises as the above is outrageous, cowardly, and completely antithetical to the goal of defeating the enemy.

There have been other revelations. Apparently, when presented with the intelligence and opportunity to act, Obama decided to "sleep on it" before deciding. Okay, I was not privy to the details, but it strikes me that anyone who took more time than it takes for the brain's electric signal to trigger vocal chords to say "go" should be impeached. Second, while other members of the administration adhered to protocol related to secrecy, his own Vice President outed the Navy seals and named the admiral in charge in a public forum!

Public hand wringing and dissent within the administration, intelligence gaffes, and cowardly appeasement has turned a potentially monumental victory into an ignominious defeat. Rather than appearing confident and in control, the president appeared to be conflicted, presiding over a divided administration with no firm idea of how to proceed. Rather than appearing as the Commander-in-Chief shrewdly leading the greatest military in the world, he appeared like a lottery winner from a trailer park.

So what is the essential flaw animating Obama's approach to the world versus an approach that is coherent, shrewd, and idealistic?

Imagine that the Founding Fathers, faced with overwhelming odds of defeating the mighty British Empire, regarded the British King, not as an evil despot, but as a misguided extremist who had hijacked an otherwise reasonable philosophy, the Divine Right of Kings? Throughout history, how is it that any small group was able to defeat a much larger, more advanced adversary? In ten years since 9/11, and 30 years since the Iranian Revolution, why is it that America has not defeated the Islamic radicals?

The reason is that America's leaders lack the courage that follows from moral certainty. A morally certain individual better offend his enemies! On the other hand, Obama is not so sure. Yeah, he killed bin Laden, but he doesn't believe in "extreme" notions of good and evil. To the philosophical pragmatist, it is more important to exude passivity and openness to compromise, no matter what the situation. To such a mind, the only sin is to project confidence, moral confidence. That is why Obama has failed and why our leaders have been unable to define, much less defeat, our enemy.

10 comments:

roadrage666 said...

spot on

Anonymous said...

Welcome Back,

I couldn't agree more with your post. When the announcement came that Bin Laden was dead, I didn't really take it seriously. I couldn't believe that Obama could be firm on a decision such as killing that monster. I was truly skeptical. It looks like from what I've been reading, he dithered on that too. Panetta made the final decision to go forward with the operation.


Bookish Babe

Per-Olof Samuelsson said...

Glad to see you back! I was beginning to get worried.

Jason said...

You might as well just call yourself a conservative, and not an advocate of reason and thought, as long as you advocate simplistic "confidence," "firmness," and "certainty," and this "make a decision and stick with it, right or wrong" mentality.

In my mind, Bush and Obama, in general, are equally conservative and equally awful, in terms of their foreign policy, statism, and mentality, and neither should be President (though neither is a dictator or worthy of seething hatred). But at least Obama does partially recognize that ideas take great thought and time to figure out. He seems to genuinely struggle with serious issues, as a person should.

The Osama killing is not the central issue, it's the whole foreign policy and mentality that is. Bush basically gave up and went with the most pathetic, disastrous approach of not even attempting to critically assess issues like whether Islam or Islamic fundamentalism is good or bad, whether they are separate or how connected they are, whether free speech is fully allowed during war, whether torture is acceptable, what is defined as torture (are there some things we will never do, like knock someone's teeth out or pour acid on a terrorist with information as an interrogation technique), etc. He just picked the easy country to attack, Iraq, picked the easy torture approach without any in-depth explanation of what philosophy would guide it, what limits there would be, if any.

At least Obama tries, a little bit, to think about and intellectually grapple with these issues. For example, he does not like Guantanamo's not-values-guided, unprincipled, non-methodical "do whatever it takes" approach that portrays America as a cheap thug that will get "results" (which it doesn't get) at the cost of its values. He doesn't like the hotbed of Islamic terrorism and primitive aggression in the Middle East, but he does not think simplistically and "boldly" tossing a bunch of bombs without identifying the main threat (and without cultural change towards enlightenment, liberal benevolence and fairness, and rationalism) is going to solve anything.

We need intellectualism, deep thought, assertively grappling with complex, difficult ideas, and until then, conservatism--i.e., phony "boldness," traditionalism, conformity, unseriousness--will reign supreme in the culture.

Doug Reich said...

Jason,

So whether or not to kill or capture Bin Laden would be a "complex" decision for which you must "grapple"?

Where did I say you should stick with a decision whether "right or wrong"?

I advocate moral certainty based on objective facts and reason. Obama does not "grapple" with these issues in order to come to a conclusion, he rejects that there is right and wrong, i.e., he rejects principles on principle.

As to the "simplistic" charge, see my post "The Modern Intellectuals Virtue of Complexity"

http://dougreich.blogspot.com/2009/07/modern-intellectuals-virtue-of.html

and my post "Simplistic vs. Complexistic"

http://dougreich.blogspot.com/2009/08/reason-vs-energy-use-feedback.html

madmax said...

In my mind, Bush and Obama, in general, are equally conservative and equally awful...

They are both altruists you can say for sure. But both "conservatives"? Obama is not a conservative and neither was Bush really. Both refuse to see the evil of Islam and link it with terrorism. Both appease Islam.

At least Obama tries, a little bit, to think about and intellectually grapple with these issues.

Please. Obama doesn't think intellectually about anything. He isn't capable. He's a consistent Leftist. Everything in his mind gets filtered through egalitarianism. This "Obama is an intellectual man whereas Bush was a reckless fool" meme is garbage. Both of them were incapable of defending the United States because both of them refuse to understand Islam (certainly Obama who has strong Muslim sensitivities).

Jason said...

Go read about President Obama's actions and reasoning behind the Libyan strikes just before Qaddafi was about to slaughter the small number of semi-revolutionaries there. See if you can figure out for yourself what made that decision and the reasons he publicly gave for doing it ten times more coherent, sensible, and pro-freedom than anything Bush ever did.

Jason said...

Here's a small portion of his remarks and reasoning for those strikes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdpuHald-5k

Doug Reich said...

Jason,

First, who said Bush was sensible?

Second, I watched the video. You think that makes Obama look sensible? As the narrator points out, he contradicts his own secretary of defense and his own actions. There is no logic or consistency in any of this and it is, in fact, a policy of sacrifice and suicide.

Niall Ferguson once said likened Obama's foreign policy to a Facebook entry. I think he gave him too much credit.

Perplexio said...

Hawaii is shrouded in mystery?!

Seriously. He was born in Hawaii. He is a natural born American.

On the rest of your post, I agree with you to some extent. I don't necessarily agree with all of your logic behind your reasons but I can't argue that Obama's uncertainty and vacillation on these issues do show him to be a weak president-- especially on foreign policy.

As for his domestic policy I'm surprised that even his own supporters aren't more annoyed with him for "punting" his big "pet issue"-- health care to Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi. But I'll leave further discussion of his domestic policy for another day.