Will Obama Try to "Split the Difference" on Afghanistan?

How often in life do we see difficult issues argued passionately by two opposing sides only to be ultimately decided by the classic Let's-Split-the-Difference Method? It's a rhetorical question, but the correct answer is too often.

Where did this notion of splitting the difference originate? We know it goes back at least as far as King Solomon, who ordered a baby to be split in two to settle a dispute between the actual mother and an imposter. When the real mother instantly pleaded for the king to spare the baby and give him to the other woman instead, King Solomon made his decision without dithering. From the Old Testament's First Book of Kings, chapter 3, verses 27-28:
Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother." When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.
In this decision, splitting the difference to be "fair" to both sides would have been the worst possible resolution. Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama faces a similar decision regarding troop deployment in Afghanistan. The two passionate sides are 1) the liberal and radical anti-war wings of the Democrat party, and 2) our military commanders and the countless Americans who support peace through victory over tyranny by military means when necessary. Many of us suspect that these military commanders are the very same commanders that Candidate for Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama vowed to listen to if he was elected. Keep repeating "Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama" it until it rolls off your tongue a little easier. While you're doing that, let's explore how Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama might likely approach difficult decisions.

During the 2008 campaign, John McCain and Barack Obama attended the Saddleback Forum for an unusual and refreshing style of debate. Pastor Rick Warren asked each candidate the same list of questions separately. Barack Obama went first while John McCain waited in an area off-stage where he couldn't hear the questions or answers. Pastor Warren
asked future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Folks, you may want to make yourselves comfortable. Here is the future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's complete
response:
Well, you know, I ah, ah, think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or, ah, a scientific perspective, ah, answering that question with specificity, ah, is, is, you know, ah, above my pay grade. 
Pastor Warren tried unsuccessfully to get a word in edgewise by saying, "Have you--?" The future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama talked over him and continued with:
But, but, but, but, but...but, but let me, let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, ah, cuz this is something I, ah, obviously, the country wrestles with. One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I, ah, ah, think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is, is not paying attention. So, so, so, so that'd be point number one. But point number two, ah, I am, I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe versus Wade and I, I come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion but because ultimately I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they, they wrestle with these things in profound ways in consultation with their pastors or their, ah, spouses or their, their doctors or their family members. Um, and so for me, the goal right now should be, and this is where I think we can find common ground. And, by the way, I've now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform is, how do we reduce the number of abortions? Because the fact is that although we've had a president who's opposed to abortion, over the last eight years abortions have not gone down. And, and that I think is something that we have to address.
It's amazingly ironic that future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama used "above my pay grade," a phrase most commonly used in the military, as part of his dithering non-answer to a very simple question. Obama responded to the question but never actually answered it. He tried to split the difference by giving a little something to those on each side of the issue. No one gets everything he wants, but no one goes home empty-handed, either. Obama's response clearly illustrates why it's taking him so long to decide about deploying the additional troops that General McChrystal requested in August. It takes Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama an agonizingly long time just to not answer a question about what his own view is, let alone somehow find a way to partially satisfy everyone holding an opinion and a future vote.

It's also very ironic and truly very sad to now consider John McCain's answer to the same question; "[At] what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" Senator John McCain's answer:
At the moment of conception. [Applause.] I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you. [Applause.]
Notice the complete lack of stumbling around the issue and the sublime precision with which Senator John McCain arrived at his answer. Pastor Warren didn't ask for a lecture on the complexities of the issue. He wanted to know about each candidate's view of when a baby gets human rights. John McCain didn't have to think about his view. He didn't stammer or wish he had a teleprompter. He didn't split the difference or try to split hairs. He already knew his own views, thoughts, and convictions on the subject. He was, and is, comfortable with himself and the fact that not everyone agrees with him. True leaders are prepared to be very lonely.

We can now only dream about the precision with which John McCain would have arrived at a decision regarding General McChrystal's request for troops. Additionally, John McCain most likely would have selected his own Secretary of Defense without a need for the crutch of a blame-Bush hedge in case something went wrong militarily. If George Bush's wars start to look like Vietnam, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama will sweep out the remaining Bush residue by using his secret weapon: a pre-signed letter of resignation from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the lone convenient holdover from "the last eight years."

Surely, a "President John McCain" would have had questions about troop deployment, and he would have demanded "straight-talk" answers from his military commanders. A "President John McCain" would have taken some time to deliberate options, but it would be pure comedy to suggest that he would have taken this long to decide. "President John McCain" and "Commander-in-Chief John McCain"...they sure have a nice ring to them. That's not sour grapes. It's more like trying on a very expensive fur coat (sorry, PETA) or test-driving a sports car we know we can't have. Just for a moment, it's wonderful to imagine, what if...

OK, let's get back to reality. Again, why are we waiting to decide on troop deployment? Oh, that's right. According to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, we're waiting for a "true partner" in Afghanistan. Now that Abdullah Abdullah has bowed out of the run-off election, the political playing field has been leveled in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is now the only candidate. Did Karzai ever spend any time in Chicago? With just one candidate, it won't be necessary to hold another election.

Since no decision has been announced about troop deployment, apparently we're still waiting for that elusive "true partner" to emerge. That must mean that the White House does not feel President Karzai qualifies. We'll now have to wait for another election cycle in Afghanistan or a new stalling tactic from the White House.

Decisions, decisions. How will Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama split the difference between those who want to pull out of Afghanistan completely and those who want the resources necessary to win a war? As our Commander in Chief continues to consider the politically correct answer between zero and 40,000, it may be time to take Air Force One out for another spin. It's always fun to get away and it looks presidential. It would be really tough to choose which of the two is more important. Let's split the difference.
How often in life do we see difficult issues argued passionately by two opposing sides only to be ultimately decided by the classic Let's-Split-the-Difference Method? It's a rhetorical question, but the correct answer is too often.

Where did this notion of splitting the difference originate? We know it goes back at least as far as King Solomon, who ordered a baby to be split in two to settle a dispute between the actual mother and an imposter. When the real mother instantly pleaded for the king to spare the baby and give him to the other woman instead, King Solomon made his decision without dithering. From the Old Testament's First Book of Kings, chapter 3, verses 27-28:
Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother." When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.
In this decision, splitting the difference to be "fair" to both sides would have been the worst possible resolution. Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama faces a similar decision regarding troop deployment in Afghanistan. The two passionate sides are 1) the liberal and radical anti-war wings of the Democrat party, and 2) our military commanders and the countless Americans who support peace through victory over tyranny by military means when necessary. Many of us suspect that these military commanders are the very same commanders that Candidate for Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama vowed to listen to if he was elected. Keep repeating "Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama" it until it rolls off your tongue a little easier. While you're doing that, let's explore how Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama might likely approach difficult decisions.

During the 2008 campaign, John McCain and Barack Obama attended the Saddleback Forum for an unusual and refreshing style of debate. Pastor Rick Warren asked each candidate the same list of questions separately. Barack Obama went first while John McCain waited in an area off-stage where he couldn't hear the questions or answers. Pastor Warren
asked future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Folks, you may want to make yourselves comfortable. Here is the future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's complete
response:
Well, you know, I ah, ah, think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or, ah, a scientific perspective, ah, answering that question with specificity, ah, is, is, you know, ah, above my pay grade. 
Pastor Warren tried unsuccessfully to get a word in edgewise by saying, "Have you--?" The future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama talked over him and continued with:
But, but, but, but, but...but, but let me, let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, ah, cuz this is something I, ah, obviously, the country wrestles with. One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I, ah, ah, think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is, is not paying attention. So, so, so, so that'd be point number one. But point number two, ah, I am, I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe versus Wade and I, I come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion but because ultimately I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they, they wrestle with these things in profound ways in consultation with their pastors or their, ah, spouses or their, their doctors or their family members. Um, and so for me, the goal right now should be, and this is where I think we can find common ground. And, by the way, I've now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform is, how do we reduce the number of abortions? Because the fact is that although we've had a president who's opposed to abortion, over the last eight years abortions have not gone down. And, and that I think is something that we have to address.
It's amazingly ironic that future Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama used "above my pay grade," a phrase most commonly used in the military, as part of his dithering non-answer to a very simple question. Obama responded to the question but never actually answered it. He tried to split the difference by giving a little something to those on each side of the issue. No one gets everything he wants, but no one goes home empty-handed, either. Obama's response clearly illustrates why it's taking him so long to decide about deploying the additional troops that General McChrystal requested in August. It takes Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama an agonizingly long time just to not answer a question about what his own view is, let alone somehow find a way to partially satisfy everyone holding an opinion and a future vote.

It's also very ironic and truly very sad to now consider John McCain's answer to the same question; "[At] what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" Senator John McCain's answer:
At the moment of conception. [Applause.] I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you. [Applause.]
Notice the complete lack of stumbling around the issue and the sublime precision with which Senator John McCain arrived at his answer. Pastor Warren didn't ask for a lecture on the complexities of the issue. He wanted to know about each candidate's view of when a baby gets human rights. John McCain didn't have to think about his view. He didn't stammer or wish he had a teleprompter. He didn't split the difference or try to split hairs. He already knew his own views, thoughts, and convictions on the subject. He was, and is, comfortable with himself and the fact that not everyone agrees with him. True leaders are prepared to be very lonely.

We can now only dream about the precision with which John McCain would have arrived at a decision regarding General McChrystal's request for troops. Additionally, John McCain most likely would have selected his own Secretary of Defense without a need for the crutch of a blame-Bush hedge in case something went wrong militarily. If George Bush's wars start to look like Vietnam, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama will sweep out the remaining Bush residue by using his secret weapon: a pre-signed letter of resignation from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the lone convenient holdover from "the last eight years."

Surely, a "President John McCain" would have had questions about troop deployment, and he would have demanded "straight-talk" answers from his military commanders. A "President John McCain" would have taken some time to deliberate options, but it would be pure comedy to suggest that he would have taken this long to decide. "President John McCain" and "Commander-in-Chief John McCain"...they sure have a nice ring to them. That's not sour grapes. It's more like trying on a very expensive fur coat (sorry, PETA) or test-driving a sports car we know we can't have. Just for a moment, it's wonderful to imagine, what if...

OK, let's get back to reality. Again, why are we waiting to decide on troop deployment? Oh, that's right. According to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, we're waiting for a "true partner" in Afghanistan. Now that Abdullah Abdullah has bowed out of the run-off election, the political playing field has been leveled in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is now the only candidate. Did Karzai ever spend any time in Chicago? With just one candidate, it won't be necessary to hold another election.

Since no decision has been announced about troop deployment, apparently we're still waiting for that elusive "true partner" to emerge. That must mean that the White House does not feel President Karzai qualifies. We'll now have to wait for another election cycle in Afghanistan or a new stalling tactic from the White House.

Decisions, decisions. How will Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama split the difference between those who want to pull out of Afghanistan completely and those who want the resources necessary to win a war? As our Commander in Chief continues to consider the politically correct answer between zero and 40,000, it may be time to take Air Force One out for another spin. It's always fun to get away and it looks presidential. It would be really tough to choose which of the two is more important. Let's split the difference.