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OBAMA AND SYRIA

September 11, 2013

I woke up this morning thinking…why am I still conflicted on Syria; why can’t I seem to be as strongly  “YES”  or “NO”  as everyone around me?  I made my coffee, unfolded the paper, and read the headline ”Obama Backs Diplomacy; Keeps Strikes as Option”  and decided….I need to sort this out in my own mind – everyone else I know has.

Who is the man named Barak Obama?

Obama is anti-war in general; as a senator, he voted NO to the Iraq War…one of the few at the time that, like me, was not drawn into the neo-con nonsense.  I had watched 7.5 months of the Bush campaign and preparations to go to war against Iraq that started the day he was inaugurated; and I was leery.  I believed then, and I still believe, that the Neo-Cons manipulated Little George into a position of war to show up his father and finish a job that George Sr. did not finish.  And then 9-11 happened; masterminded by a man NOT from Afghanistan; but by a man that  took refuge there; so despite the fact history had just shown us the difficulty of winning a war in Afghanistan-based on the Russians then recent long attempt- we went to war without Congressional approval…..a war that is 12 years old and still continues.    So yes, Obama voting no to war was a good signal to me.

Obama was concerned about the Syrian civil war but clearly drew the line on entering a war and putting Americans at risk.  The US offered aid when it could be assured that aid would not end up in Al Qaida hands.

 Of course, that put Republicans against him; united in the belief that he is weak in foreign policy…because it does not follow the bluster of the second half of the 20th century; but then, SO FAR, it has not yielded wars that drag on and on and on…think Viet Nam; Afghanistan; and Iraq.

Most Americans were relieved we were not jumping in; many of us were still troubled that through the longest war since Viet Nam, the Bush Administration had given NO THOUGHT to what war in the 21st century would be like….NO THOUGHT to the kinds of injuries that would be incurred; NO THOUGHT to increasing veteran services to accommodate returning wounded soldiers – both physically and mentally.

All that was left to Obama; along with the slow process of ending the Iraqi War, working through a plan to extract us SOMETIME soon from Afghanistan; and trying to play “catch-up” with getting help for all the GIs that followed the Bush command to go to war. And let’s not forget to add to the list that in 2006, the Bush Administration started stockpiling cause and money to extend our wars in the Middle East to include Syria as well…Had McCain won the Presidential election in 2008, I have no doubt we’d be in the thick of that war as well – with similar disastrous results.  Fortunately Obama won.

Seriously, folks, do you really think what he inherited made him a war-monger?  Come on; get real!

Take a deep breath and think of the timeline.  The most recent chemical bombings happened on August 21 and were well-documented.

For some amount of time the battle of what to do raged inside the White House.  How many times did we hear Obama say “I’m still undecided”; and how many times did you hear the Press criticize him for that?  How many times did you hear your favorite commentator say:

“He’s ready to bomb; can’t he just wait for the UN inspectors to get out?”

or

“What is he waiting for?  The battle ships are in place.  If he doesn’t do it this weekend, we will lose the advantage of surprise?

Really folks, do you REALLY think anyone interested in the world wasn’t listening in on your constant evaluations?  Even in pre-WWII days, the world knew a debate was happening in the US so you can be sure, the world was tuned in to the blathering Press this time around.  But maybe the blathering  gave good coverage for the President to work through the possible action steps.

Nevertheless, through all that, I was hesitant and confused.

  •        I voted for Obama twice because he thought differently than our 20th century leaders.
  •         He was a man that believed leadership was reaching consensus through discussion-not unilateral decisions based on “power”.
  •          He filled his Cabinet and advisory positions with a mixture of folks- both Republican and Democrats that were experts on the task     at hand.
  •          I voted for him as the best representative of an emerging USA of the future.  For me that meant:

 

    1.    No ingrained philosophies of the good old boys; he was an independent thinker
    2.    A strong belief in consensus building through collaboration-something I know from experience on a smaller scale yields GREAT results, but is very “messy along the way
    3.    A first step in US leadership that reflects the USA of 2040 – multiculturalism
    4.    He was not an “angry old bird” from my generation trying to protect a myth that those of us who came into adulthood by 1970 “KNOW BEST”

So in spite of doubts, I reminded myself to watch the signals- he was doing exactly what I should expect.  He was preparing for retaliation, but he was struggling- as war goes against everything he believes in, and he was sharing that with the American people.  Over and over, he said he was undecided.

This brings us to the weekend before the G20.  The Press had already decided war was beginning that weekend as he had to do it before he left for Europe.  What?  Would any responsible President start a war on Sunday and leave for Europe the following week?   Well, obviously had the Press been in charge, we would have been foolish enough to do so.

Remember Andrea Mitchell bitching about the cost of repositioning the warships if they were not going to be used, and What was he doing playing golf on Friday with a war starting the next day or so?!!!

So that weekend, I went back to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and the discussion of “Just Wars”.  I read again the yeahs and nays and was reminded once again why I voted for Obama twice.

He is not a man of the world in which I was born, grew up, and formed my beliefs.  He’s a man suited to leading us in small steps to a better world of the 21st century.

I will not always agree; I do not have the same perspective.

But I believe his hesitancy was real; his actions were based on assessment of divided views within his advisory groups; and that it was well worth the delay that weekend to give diplomacy one more chance to work as he put a hold on action and tried one last time to work out an equitable plan with Putin at the G20, while Kerry continued discussions with his own Russian counterpart.

Personally, I think they fooled the Press…one more time…and now we have a reprieve-short as that may be.

Of course the naysayers and the Press will continue to shout WRONG – the wires were burning with Andrea Mitchell’s attempt just this noon.  She even did a whole segment on Nancy Reagan running the government as she questioned why Obama mentioned Michelle.

 No Andrea, I think most of country heard him say:  This is really hard and I know most people do not want war – I do not want war; Michelle does not want war.  THAT is totally different than the spin you are putting on things because of your own personal opinion…and forever more, I will think less of you for your presumption that as a reporter you know more than the President of the United States.

But as I look at what’s unfolded and how…I’d say one more time, his country underestimated a man of the 21st century.   As we continue to judge him against old standards that obviously did not quite make our world a better place for all.  Today’s 12th anniversary of 9-11 is certainly a testament to that as are the resulting wars that still continue with or without us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the incredible debt piled up for starting  and paying for those wars on a credit card.

Obama is the first to try to blaze this new trail into a whole new world where no precedents have been set and for which there is no tested playbook.  Will he be right all the time?  Probably not, but will he have done a better job than all the Angry Old Birds including McCain and Andrea Mitchell?

I think so; so I’m sticking with him.

 

 

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