Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
The moniker “No Drama Obama” has long-since evaporated from the political dialogue, but that maturity and statesmanship that brought an end to a generation of political drama queens, from Reagan to Clinton to W., reared its ugly head again this week as the President’s executive decision to support the UN actions in Libya are being cat-called by the media wags and Capitol Hill politicos with whispers of “indecisive” and “waffling.”
The Fourth Estate and Congress have been acting like petulant children, robbed of their moment in the media spotlight. Good for Mr. Obama, our Grown-Up-In-Chief.
Look at what has rolled out over the last few weeks for the Obama Administration as one of the world’s great drama queens and professional megalomaniac, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, thumbed his nose at his people and the world and began his campaign of death and destruction to hold on to his crumbling power structure in Libya.
The president took decisive action, communicated in the political back-channels of the International community without the usual leaks, was able to get a UN Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone which no one thought was likely, and was able to get it running in a timely enough fashion to spare the lives of thousands of Libyans who would have been mercilessly killed by elements of their crumbling government.
The media and the Capitol Hill media whores that are always basically of any opinion that perpetuates a news cycle and their place in it, have called out Mr. Obama because they feel that he failed to put on the big enough show to give them platforms themselves.
There was no live national evening address that would give the media fodder for days of good television and print. The White House informed the Congress as required.
“We have in a very substantial way consulted with Congress and will continue to do that,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. The administration addressed every question on Libya with the Congressmen on the committees that need to know.
Mr. Obama addressed the nation, from the White House, in a nearly 10 minute speech, and even published the address for the general public on YouTube:
Politicians, fulfilling their crack-like addiction to a camera lens, from mega drama queens like House Speaker John Boehner and Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, to quirky drama queens like Democrat Dennis Kucinich complained about their lack of consultation, and even bandied about the idea of impeaching Mr. Obama for failing to consult them. They all pointed to the good-ol-days, for them, of Reagan and Clinton and W., who turned the various wars and police actions, from the joke of Grenada to the fiction of WMDs in Iraq, into high-theater events that made good news.
Yet that kind of showboating has drawn out conflict, and put a lot of innocent civilians and even our troops unnecessarily in harm’s way.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 is pretty clear. The President informed the Congress within the 48 hours required, and has planned to end our primary involvement well within the 60 day limit prescribed by the joint congressional resolution.
The hypocrisy of the commentary over the last news cycle, though, has been that most of those criticizing the President actually agree with his Libya policy, and with the swift and decisive action that he took.
This is not 1919. We do not spend weeks or years gearing up for a combat fought on big battlefields with men in pompous costumes working to outflank each other.
In the 21st century, the need for military action often comes from dirty forms of combat killing non-combatants or mass genocide, and it comes swiftly.
There are times when transparency is neither wise nor beneficial to the safety of our troops who will find themselves in harm’s way. Decisions have to be made that are a principal reason why our form of government has an executive branch, not just a legislative branch.
Mr. Obama is a student of history. He probably learned much from the high-drama dithering and debate over interventions in the former Yugoslavia and the big hype over Somalia that backfired when our soldiers were being dragged from a Blackhawk helicopter through the streets of Mogadishu by warlords who had been bracing for our arrival for weeks.
Many lives would have been spared in Serbia, Bosnia, and even in Somalia had the international community spent less time seeking the media’s love and approval, and more time engaged in the business of acting swiftly and with decision.
When you let the bad guys know that you are coming, and give them time to prepare, the situation on the ground that you’re trying to interdict only gets worse. Mr. Obama knows that they watch CNN too.
He also knows the cost of turning a completely blind eye to the mass murderers of the world. Whole genocides in Africa rolled out under both Clinton and Bush’s watch largely because the predominantly white television media demographics do not really care about what goes on in Africa, and they have no resources that made their plight our problem. Fortunately for Libyans, they sit atop oil, making their conflict of national interest that even the far Right will have a hard time disputing.
Is the Libyan action in our interest? If it takes Gadhafi out of the picture, which is a big question mark at this point, it means that anyone departing London to New York can probably breathe a little bit easier as they pass over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Mr. Obama continues to position the actions taken in conjunction with the U.N. in Libya as very limited in scope, with our command-and-control of events, and active combat forces in use, lasting less than a couple of weeks. NATO indicated yesterday that it will indeed fill in that command-and-control space, and that other countries will be defending the no-fly zone over Libya.
Obama’s quiet diplomacy and swift action showed exceptionally well thought-out strategy that benefited our men and women in uniform. It kept Gadhafi’s rag-tag military focused on their limited objective of killing their own, and not hunkering down to defend against an international force. It kept our forces safer in the skies, because it didn’t allow the elements of the Libyan Army loyal to the madman to optimize their defenses.
It also did not give the Colonel time to gin up the sympathies of anti-Western Imperialism that sell so well in the Arab world. The timing even fed into the more important anti-Gadhafi coverage that the big Arabic television outlets were pressing in their news cycles.
The President has not gone into great detail as to the specifics of the U.S. role in the on-going zone. His intent, though, seems clear.
Our opinion-shapers have become accustomed to running the show, or at least controlling how the game gets played . Mr. Obama has made the tactical decision to take the reigns of government out of that kind of governing by poll that George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton perfected.
Coach Obama controls the boards in this game, and he is going to play a very contained zone defense with the media to go with his surgical offense on the battlefield. He controls the game.
What is being missed by all, including fairly smart, wonky folks like Rachel Maddow, is that it is more important that our president execute military campaigns well than it is that he panders to MSNBC and Fox News
If leaders like FDR and Churchill handled the media the way that we do today, we would all be speaking German.
There are events that, at least as they are unfolding, we are probably better and safer allowing to happen on the back-channel without all of the attendant chatter.
So is Mr. Obama indecisive? Hardly. History will note that this may have been one of the most deftly handled police actions in modern times. Should he have consulted with the Congress sooner? In spite of Congressional grumbling, the War Powers Act says no.
If Mr. Obama can keep U.S. military engagement to the scope that he envisions, he will have achieved the goal of stopping Gadhafi’s reign of terror over his people and re-established the International community’s ability to act on moral imperatives. He will have kept our troops safer, and he will have reunited the United States with the international community which George W. Bush dismantled both through intent and bungling.
The media will have to wait for answers to many of their questions. They should, and will wait.
Mr. Obama has decisively put them back in their place. It’s time that our leaders control the political agenda, not the whining of talking heads from Hannity to Hardball.
My shiny two.