Sunday, October 27, 2013

Voting Present

Jesus Christ, welcome to the freaking White House, eh? There was a time when the buck stopped there. Now it goes there to die, or something (tip to Via Meadia via Instapundit):

Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.

In private conversations with aides, Mr. Obama described Syria as one of those hellish problems every president faces, where the risks are endless and all the options are bad.

So what are we getting?

Decisive action by Washington, they argue, could have bolstered moderate forces battling Mr. Assad’s troops for more than two years, and helped stem the rising toll of civilian dead, blunt the influence of radical Islamist groups among the rebels and perhaps even deter the Syria government from using chemical weapons.

Worried that we'd be blamed for something bad that might happen if we did something to defeat an enemy, we did virtually nothing and watched the situation get worse.

So the buck entered the Oval Office, was batted around like a hacky sack by senior foreign policy staff, and then fell behind one of the couch cushions where it was lost until housekeeping staff found it.

I'd like to note that this damning article is in the New York Times. I guess some of their staff took their cojones out of the blind trust they put them in during the 2009 inauguration. Will wonders never cease?

But America will be blamed for "letting" the bad things happen. President Obama may be able to vote "present," but America can't.

Grow up. Some outcomes are less bad than others. If our choices are among bad outcomes, you have to make a choice.

If we'd made an effort earlier to support rebels while they were non-jihadi and while Assad was reeling, this might be over. Or at least on the down slope heading toward Assad's defeat.

But no, our president goes through the motions of leading our foreign policy. He convenes meetings of his team of rivals in the Oval Office and deigns to sit there while they debate and offer alternatives that will never be seriously considered.

That's the problem. President Obama does not and never has thought of himself as a wartime president. He goes through the motions, checking boxes on what an actual leader would do if he was in charge. As I wrote when our last phase of the Iraq War was being wound down, quoting myself from 2009:

I've figured our president is so totally focused on his domestic agenda that foreign policy and wars are only of interest depending on how he figures they'll hurt or help his domestic agenda.

Iraq? Afghanistan? Is it more trouble to win or lose? On Iraq, he'd have to go out of his way to lose--so complete the victory it shall be.

On Afghanistan, three months of debate and the jury is still out on whether we want to win. Will losing or fighting to win hurt his domestic vision more?

While the president has mercifully kept many Bush wartime measures without admitting it (but made the NSA stuff worse?), I do not trust the president as a war leader any more now than when I wrote this post:

Still, our president does not take the war seriously. He goes through the motions by closely following many past policies, but his heart isn't in it. And this will be communicated to those who must fight the war. Many will not risk being thrown under the bus for being too aggressive in defending us. Perhaps not enough to spell disaster, but over time how can any relaxation of effort fail to be exploited by our jihadi enemies?

I wonder what horrifying event will make President Obama a war president.

What could horrify the president and get him to pay attention to foreign affairs? I'm thinking loss of the Senate in 2014. Now that he'd take seriously.

Of course, that warning about being careful about what you wish for might bite me in the butt at that point. It might be that our foreign policy on auto-pilot is the least bad thing of many bad things that could happen if our president chose to be a foreign policy president.