There are those who believe military action is always the answer and there are those who believe military action is never the answer, but the president — wait a minute. No one believes either of those things! All right, granted, maybe John McCain does, but who else’s foreign-policy views can fairly be reduced to one of those two positions? Even Ron Paul voted to invade Afghanistan. You know how it goes, though, with the Adult-in-the-Room-in-Chief: His position, by definition, is the sensible, pragmatic one, and therefore his critics on either side are necessarily out on the fringe. Ben Shapiro translates:
Obama: "We need to do stuff. And the stuff we will do will not be stuff that a crazy person says we should do. It will be good stuff."
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 28, 2014
So shopworn has this gimmick become that it’s now practically a drinking game on Twitter during O’s speeches to spot the straw men as they arrive. I do think there’s a strategic component to it, though, not just some knee-jerk impulse on Obama’s part to reassure the world that he’s Mr. Reasonable. It’s not quite true that McCain supports military intervention everywhere, but given his high media profile and his eternal belief that the U.S. should be doing more abroad, no matter how much the U.S. is already doing, I think he’s become a useful proxy for that position to the White House. McCain is, after all, the closest thing the GOP currently has to a spokesman for George W. Bush’s foreign policy (I think he’s even more gung ho about interventionism than Dubya was, but never mind that) and running against Bush’s foreign policy has always paid off for Obama. As one person on Twitter said, read today’s speech and you’ll see that chunks of it seem to be aimed directly at McCain — which is to say, aimed directly at Bush. The same was true the last time he spoke up in defense of his foreign policy, slightly less than a month ago. Setting up that contrast, passivity abroad or another Iraq war, is good for O.
Is the contrast between Maverick and Obama really as sharp as he’d like us to think, though? Some Special Ops troops wonder.
America’s toughest fighters, members of the elite Special Operations Forces, are watching with growing concern as the social-media hashtag #bringbackourgirls becomes an international campaign…
According to two well-placed defense department sources, senior Special Operations commanders — those in charge of the Navy SEALs, Delta Force and the Ranger Regiment — have told their men to be ready, assuming that eventually “the hashtag will bring us out.”
“We’re being tweeted into combat,” said a military official who spoke to NBC News but asked not to be identified.
Obama’s already sent military “advisors” to Nigeria to help find the girls, and said explicitly in today’s speech that there is room for military action in situations “that stir our conscience” but don’t directly threaten the United States. In those cases, he said, whatever America does must be multilateral; McCain would disagree on that narrow point, but on the larger point that intervention is warranted, they’re simpatico. But then, if you remember Libya and the Syria debacle last fall, you already knew that.