What eye on which ball?

“John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”

Barack Obama – in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 29, 2008

I remember hearing Obama speak those words and, as I struggled mightily to suppress the simultaneous rising bile and howls of laughter, instantly pictured Barack Obama parachuting into Waziristan and with K-Bar clenched in teeth…blindly, stealthily edging along the walls of some rat hole to bleed OBL. Will Smith would be perfect as Barackambo in the immediately launched cinematic dramatization; while Osama bin Laden’s head rested forever on a pike in front of the White House as a reminder to those who would dare strike the US.

“We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”

Barack Obama – speaking at the October 7, 2008 Presidential Debate

Okay, this is a man far too bad ass to be played by Will Smith. Get me Samuel L. Jackson. I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. Indeed. Head on a pike if you’re lucky!

“My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him,” he said. “But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives then we will meet our goal of protecting America.”

Barack Obama on Osama bin Laden – speaking to CBS News, January 15, 2009

So Obama wants bin Laden, he’s just not sure if he really want wants bin Laden? Quite a change from the believable-to-some-apparently-because-he’s-POTUS bravado of the campaign trail. Obama followed bin Laden to the gates of the White House, shrugged, then threw out the option of house arrest. Eight weeks of Airborne training down the crapper and no Snake Pliskin-like glider insert.

“We took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq.”

Barack Obama – ad nauseum on the campaign trail, and again while speaking to CBS

To give Obama credit where credit is due he did increase troop levels fighting the Good War in Afghanistan. He’s continued carrying out UAV strikes. But behind it all there has always been whispers that the professional soldiers tasked with winning the Good War were clamoring for significantly more troops. Now a leaked assessment – oh man are we about to start hearing how leaks are a grave danger to US security and calls for special prosecutors – prepared by General McChrystal and presented to Obama August 30 confirms we need a speedy and substantial commitment of troops and resources if we actually intend to win the Good War.

Again true to his word, Obama hasn’t been distracted by Iraq. He hasn’t said the word Iraq once without the words “inherited” or “Bush” in close proximity.

“What I’m not also gonna do, though, is put the resource question before the strategy question. Until I’m satisfied that we’ve got the right strategy I’m not gonna be sending some young man or woman over there–beyond what we already have.”

Barack Obama – Meet the Press, September 20, 2009

Three weeks after receiving McChrystal’s assessment and you’re not satisfied you’ve got the right strategy? Have you followed up with McChrystal? Or Betray-US Petraeus? I’m sure the POTUS gets a lot of mail, the assessment didn’t get buried did it? If it’s been read and discussed, is this an implicit dismissal of McChrystal’s strategy assessment of the Good War? Is there any time line for outlining and approving the right strategy?

Leaks happen for a reason, and it’s safe to assume this leak happened to force Obama to make a decision. At the worst possible time, too, what with his health care “reform” floundering and that big speech to the UN this week. If there’s one ball he doesn’t need to be keeping his eye on right now it’s the Good War.

Either Obama trusts his generals or he doesn’t. If national security is a priority with Obama he needs to man up and make a decision, expend what political capital he’s got, and commit to victory. If his priority is protecting Americans from the tyranny of private health insurance he needs to make that clear. Maybe another speech would do the trick.

Faced with the embarrassing revelation that he’s been sitting on the future of the Good War while he pimped his vision of health care, he’ll quickly cave to the general’s demands – albeit with some meaningless tactical concessions so he can walk away crowing.

Leading is very different than campaigning. Faced with the realities of Afghanistan Obama immediately walked back from his “kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” rhetoric of 2008. Now, faced with flagging support for the Good War from his base – and the American people as a whole – he’s at a critical turning point in his presidency.

We can only hope he has the political courage to make the right decision. I fear the worst since political courage hasn’t been a trait I’ve seen much of from Obama.

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Thin Skin, Thick Head