Peter Lemiska
Dithering, flitting, and caterwauling is not leadership
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By Peter Lemiska
October 26, 2009

It was nearly a year ago when Americans, inspired by the words of a different, perhaps even revolutionary presidential candidate, flocked to the polls to hand him the keys to the White House. His speeches were always undeniably moving and uplifting, and many voters at that time, having grown weary of the war in Iraq and distrustful of the Bush Administration, were eager to embrace this inspirational agent for change, despite the obvious voids in his resume.

They were filled with hope by his promises, promises like a new openness and transparency in government, an end to partisan bickering and to corruption in government, a unified and prosperous America, and a renewed respect for our country on the world stage.

While some remaining Obamaphiles have dutifully written off all those promises, many of those who once supported him have learned that a silver tongued politician is, after all, still just a politician. But broken promises aside, what have we learned about the man's character and leadership since he took office?

During the campaign, Obama maintained that the engagement in Afghanistan was a "necessary war." In March of this year, he boldly reaffirmed his commitment there by announcing, "So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks are in Pakistan and Afghanistan...And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can." He went on to say "I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Later in June, Obama appointed respected Army General Stanley McChrystal to take control and evaluate the situation in Afghanistan. The general quickly determined that things were worse than expected, and without the infusion of at least 40,000 additional troops, Afghanistan could be lost. Though his official report was only recently acknowledged by the White House, everyone has been aware of the contents for some time.

So being the man that he is, Obama made the toughest decision of his life. He decided to delay his decision. He found a lifeline of sorts in the recent corrupt election in Afghanistan, so he can now cautiously suggest that any military action must be linked to a stable Afghan government.

But could it be that this newfound caution is more closely tied to his seething far left base than to the corrupt Afghan government? After all, Obama had been well aware of the problems with that government since taking office. He acknowledged that in his March speech, noting that "Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption..."

While some individuals thrive on the responsibility that comes with leadership, others slink away from it. And as president, Obama has countless opportunities to slink away. He can spend time bantering with David Letterman, or jet off to Copenhagen to lobby the IOC. Or he can deliver countless assorted speeches across the country, or attend fundraisers 23 of them since taking office.

And so, a career military officer who knows how to win this war is left waiting, while our soldiers are fighting and dying. Casualties in Afghanistan have increased more than 27% so far this year over the last. Obama should be using those vaunted powers of persuasion, his self-described "gift," to explain to the American people why he must deploy 40,000 reinforcements now. Instead, he prefers to use that gift to make petty accusations, griping that he is being treated unfairly by Fox News and that the Bush Administration is responsible for all his woes.

That's what administration officials brazenly tried to do when they whined about starting from scratch in Afghanistan and having to rework the Bush plan. There was some head-nodding until we heard from former Vice President Cheney. He responded that Obama was, in fact, fully briefed on a detailed military plan for Afghanistan when he took office, and that he later adopted a nearly identical approach.

People will believe whichever account they choose, but regardless, most would agree that the excuses are beginning to wear thin. So, nine months into his presidency, while he jokes about mopping up the mess left behind, many are beginning to question Obama's leadership.

Most of us still value qualities like courage, conviction, selflessness, and decisiveness. At some point, Mr. Obama must come to terms with his new position. He's not a Chicago community organizer any more, and needs to accept the leadership responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief.

© Peter Lemiska

 

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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska is a freelance writer and former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service... (more)

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