Kristol: Obama no war president

posted at 11:15 am on February 25, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Bill Kristol takes exception today not with what Barack Obama said in his quasi-State of the Union speech last night, but for what he didn’t say.  Obama called us a “nation at war” for the past seven years, but then curiously forgot to mention that he had just increased troop levels on one front while neglecting to mention that he has begun considering a significant withdrawal from the other.  Shouldn’t a president of a nation at war discuss that with Congress in his first joint session?

Obama did say he’s “carefully reviewing our policies in both wars.” “War” is just one area in which the president conducts and reviews public policy, apparently no more urgent than energy, health care or education–indeed, perhaps less so. You’d never know from the one-sentence discussion of Afghanistan that just last week the president had ordered an additional 17,000 troops there. Obama doesn’t seem to think his responsibility as commander in chief is in any way special. He certainly felt no responsibility even to begin to educate the public about this theater to which he’s committing additional American soldiers.

Instead, both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were treated as sideshows to “a new era of engagement” that Obama claims has begun. The only particular place mentioned by Obama, in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, was Israel: “To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort.” The Israeli-Arab dispute and its envoy merits a mention. Yet Iran and its nuclear program does not?

This was not the speech of a man who even contemplates the possibility of using force within the next year to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This was not the speech of a man who thinks America needs to be reminded about the dangers out there in the world, because Americans might have to be summoned to deal with them. This was not the speech of a man who thinks of himself as a war president.

Obama didn’t run as a war president, either.  He ran as the man who would get America beyond the war in Iraq and restore the vitality of old alliances, some of which did us little good in tough times anyway.  Obama did promise to fight in Afghanistan more vigorously, mostly when pitted against John McCain in the general election, who did run as a war president, and got shellacked.  Obama might have taken a message from that experience.

Still, the primary duty of a president is not Economist in Chief, but in securing the nation and ensuring victory in wars we fight.  For good reason, Obama focused on the economy, probably more to quell the fears his own rhetoric and the stumbles of his own team have provoked.  However, the nation needed to hear from its Commander in Chief last night, too, explaining why we sent 17,000 troops to fight in Afghanistan and why he feels we have achieved enough of our goals in Iraq to begin the drawdown.  How does Obama plan to continue fighting terrorism and other threats, such as the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, which Obama never even bothered to mention to Congress in his speech?

America is a country at war, whether Obama likes it or not.  He has a responsibility to national security that went all but unmentioned in last night’s speech.  That’s a poor, Jimmy Carter-like start to Obama’s presidency.

Michael Yon found one thing to cheer him, however.


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Comment pages: 1 2

And our enemies are dancing in the streets naked with joy over the new POTUS. They are just licking their chops like ravenous wolves at the anticipation of the gains they shall inherit from Jimmy Carter #2.

DL13 on February 25, 2009 at 1:40 PM

One who does not follow metaphors will have tunnel vision of reality.
- Sun Tzu’s Nephew

MB4 on February 25, 2009 at 1:22 PM

He who keeps using other’s words to defend his position will be accused of plagerism and will be defined as a ‘Biden’.
- Hornet Sting

HornetSting on February 25, 2009 at 1:54 PM

He’s so fond of using the term ad nauseum that he “inherited” this economy, but isn’t it true that he also “inherited” the war and the responsibility for keeping our country safe?

Whether he’s comfortable with it or not, it seems to me that Mr. Obama is going to have to be educated about and focus on many more subjects that affect our contry (i.e. our military) than only on his over-spending on grandious domestic entitlement pet projects. While he is an admitted “community organizer” for the major portion of his resume, his pay grade has now changed. Bless his heart and heaven help us all.

This must be why he has such a soft spot for “on the job” training for all those jobs he’s “saving or creating”. He’s living the dream (or our nightmare).

SassyDarlin on February 25, 2009 at 2:12 PM

“inherited”? OK blame Bush, but weren’t Pelosi and Reid in power for two years? Take a look at the lib PORK over the last couple of years. All possible because Pelosi and Reid extorted money by witholding thier military votes/support. I almost think the whole anti-war thing was a scam to get the programs and PORK passed.

marklmail on February 25, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Love Yon, but I think he caught a fever in Asia and is now hallucinating.

Alden Pyle on February 25, 2009 at 2:49 PM

How does Obama plan to continue fighting terrorism and other threats, such as the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, which Obama never even bothered to mention to Congress in his speech?

By cutting defense spending and going after missile defense programs?

Buy Danish on February 25, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Yon’s non-torture fetish is the only bad thing about the guy. Don’t let it interfere with the appreciation of his good works.

Does Kristol really want to listen to Obama’s war spiel? No truth involved so what’s the point? Why bother?

tuffy on February 25, 2009 at 6:37 PM

He who keeps using other’s words to defend his position will be accused of plagerism and will be defined as a ‘Biden’.
- Hornet Sting

While I do enjoy a good jab at Biden, I think you’re confusing plagiarism with unoriginal thought. Quoting someone else (and giving them the credit for the quote) is, by definition, not the former.

I agree with Ed and Mr. Kristol about what the priorities of our president ought to be. However I wonder if the approach Obama is taking isn’t partly the public’s fault. I think the popular image of what a president is supposed to do has morphed over time. I mean, the economy isn’t really the presidents primary responsibility, yet he is the the one who is assigned most of the blame if it’s in bad shape. That doesn’t excuse him, but it makes his actions a little more understandable.

ableushoe on February 25, 2009 at 7:31 PM

One who does not follow metaphors will have tunnel vision of reality.
– Sun Tzu’s Nephew

MB4 on February 25, 2009 at 1:22 PM

He who keeps using other’s words to defend his position will be accused of plagerism and will be defined as a ‘Biden’.
- Hornet Sting

HornetSting on February 25, 2009 at 1:54 PM

Silly person. Those are my words. You don’t think that Sun Tzu’s Nephew really said that do you?

BTW, genius how would something be plagiarism if a source is cited?

Try to get something right.

MB4 on February 25, 2009 at 7:35 PM

2 nephews overseas in the Military. Scares me to death this man is the one they take orders from.

Kevin in Southern Illinois on February 25, 2009 at 8:14 PM

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