Sunday, December 20, 2009

President Obama and warfare

Judging public figures is difficult at best. I use the O.J. Simpson example because I had thought that he was such a good guy. It was determined that he was innocent of murder, but I still had no idea of what he was really like until the trial made more of his private life public. The President of the United States is probably the best well known of all political figures and even then can be difficult to see what they are really like. In the Presidents that I have been old enough to vote for or against, (Beginning in 1976) I can say that I have been able to pretty well see what we got before he took office. I may have disagreed with them, but at least I pretty well knew where they stood and what they would do. I believe that one of the best compliments that George W. Bush received was that he was pretty much like what you saw on TV. I doubt if most can have ever had that said about them. (For better or worse)

President Obama is pretty much what I have expected. I noted during his interview with David Letterman well before the election, that then Senator Obama spoke eloquently, but what he was saying was not moderate. His comments about the war were not those of someone who was seeking compromise or of a person with flexibility. Yet he was attempting to project that type of image with the way that he spoke. Please note that my area of interest and expertise tends to be in the foreign affairs area. Mainly concerning conflict. President Obama is delivering what he said he would and about what I expected, not that I am in favor of it.

As President Obama stated during the run up to the election, he is attempting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. This is following up on a decision that he had made prior to finding out many of the complications involved. Despite what he finds out in the process, he will push forward and will have that facility closed well before he is up for re-election in 2012. This is not a moderate course of action. This is the action of someone who does not compromise. This is something that goes against what his image tells us.

President Obama has stated that he will speak with our enemies. He is delivering on this. Not that I am necessarily against this, it is just that much in the way of results cannot have been reasonably expected. The question is: How persistent will he be? A moderate would change tactics within a fair amount of time. I believe that enough time has already elapsed. I expect President Obama to persist for a long time yet. Most likely he will persist because the only decisive alternative is offensive warfare.

Strategic withdrawal from the region that is the most volatile in the world is not a moderate course of action. This is the same area of the world that generated the attackers on 9/11. Severe risk aversion to open conflict is apparent. These issues (Along with a few other things) makes me conclude that President Obama ranks near the most extreme views regarding resistance to open warfare. This will encourage him to seek the strategic defensive. His attention and focus would tend to be inward. This would encourage focus upon domestic enemies and tend to downplay the foreign threat. Republics do not tolerate long wars. This yields long-term political advantage. This helps clarify political strategy. One of President Obama’s better skills is as a politician. As such, he is predictable. This is not a good quality to posses during wartime, even when fighting a defensive war. I expect President Obama to stick to his plan to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan in time for the election cycle of 2012. The surge in Afghanistan along with the timetable for withdrawal is a similar escalation and pull out strategy that JFK attempted to implement beginning in early 1961. It failed miserably for Vietnam, though it can be argued that this was not President Kennedy’s fault.

On a general note, the Democratic Party almost needs a world war before they will risk waging open warfare. Not all Democrats are like this, but a solid percentage. This is a severe aversion for the risk of war that President Obama shares. If President Obama follows through as I believe he will, it will demonstrate not only his risk aversion to war, but also how he is placing politics ahead of the war. He believes that the war is political and can be solved by strategic retreat. This is not a moderate course of action. Strategic retreat is usually a result of a massive defeat of some type, militarily, political or economic.

I do not expect that the U.S. will lose this war. However, we will take far more serious losses than we should because the leadership of our country is so risk adverse. Severe risk aversion actually raises the risk of overt attacks. Balance is crucial in just about everything. President Obama is not balanced when viewing his actions concerning the war that the United States is engaged in today.

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