Has Dick Cheney gone European on us, or has Europe gone Cheneyesque? Neither, actually, but both Europe and Cheney have something in common, according to a Der Speigel editorial. Both of them have grown impatient with Barack Obama’s lengthy decision-making process on Afghanistan:
Afghanistan and Pakistan are being shaken by attacks, and the Taliban is dictating the course of the war. US President Obama has been silent about the situation for far too long and European countries like Germany and France are correct to demand better American leadership on the issue of Afghanistan. …
For once, this hesitation cannot be attributed to widespread war fatigue in Europe. The mission in Afghanistan is seen as a toxic issue in all Western nations, and every government that has provided troops has come under sharp criticism at home. What the US’s NATO allies now find far more irritating is US President Barack Obama’s silence on the issue.
The world has been waiting for clear words from the White House for months. Obama has had government and military analysts studying the military and political situation in the embattled Hindu Kush region since early January. He appointed Richard Holbrooke, probably the US’s most effective diplomat in crisis situations, to be his special envoy to the “AfPak” region, he has replaced generals and he has deployed more troops. The answers Obama asked his experts to provide after taking office have been sitting on his desk for a long time. But the conclusions vary. Obama will have to make his own decision, one that will shape his political fate. …
Whether it means withdrawal or a troop buildup, NATO expects Obama to make a decision. So far, no one knows which direction he favors. Even experienced Washington insiders have encountered a wall of silence at the White House, leading Europeans to question whether Washington even believes in its war anymore.
The headers of the sections of the editorial are quite telling, especially for a publication not known for its opposition to Obama or particular love for George Bush. In fact, it gives a rather accurate distillation of the editorial thrust:
- Taliban Controls Military Initiative
- Has the Obama Administration Lost Its Nerve?
- Europe Expects Leadership
That last one has to sting. Obama got feted by Europeans just a few months ago by underscoring his distaste for American arrogance in assuming leadership of the West. Now, however, when the chips are on the table, Europe looks to the US for leadership … and see exactly what they professed to love earlier this year.
Howard Portnoy wonders in the Green Room whether the Europeans missed Obama’s oft-repeated mantra, “Let me be clear”:
“The world,” Malzahn writes, “has been waiting for clear words from the White House for months. Obama has had government and military analysts studying the military and political situation in the embattled Hindu Kush region since early January.”
Clear words from the White House? Isn’t clarification what the White House specializes in? Isn’t the Bartlett Quotation Obama will be best remembered for “Let me be clear”?
Perhaps that will be best remembered as Obama’s “tell” for obfuscation.
I have a bad feeling that some of our conservative and Republican supporting friends are going to attack this as some sort of cheap political stunt or “using the bodies of our heroes for political gain,” but those of us who have been there might see it otherwise. The President is in the midst of wrestling with a very important decision regarding our future course in Afghanistan, and this is one aspect of that weighty choice which should never be far from his mind.
Even apart from the politics of this, Obama is the Commander in Chief, and recognizing the last full measure of devotion from these soldiers is the right thing for a President to do. I suspect that Obama wants to meet McChrystal halfway, and if there is any political calculation in this at all, it may be to tell the Left that he’s well aware of what the sacrifice means. Let’s hope that politics won’t play a part in this recognition at all.