Obama, the Warrior?

Peter L. Bergen's op-ed in last Sunday's New York Times, titled, "President Obama, Warrior in Chief" makes the following claims:

The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades. The president's many military accomplishments...are sizable.

Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda's leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden...

From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama's record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.

Mr. Bergen is right to point out, as Victor Davis Hanson and others have on many occasions, the deafening silence on the left about this bellicose side of Obama's Presidency.

Bergen is off base, however, when he criticizes hawkish conservatives for not embracing Obama's "military accomplishments." For one, conservatives have praised the President for several of the accomplishments listed above, in particular for authorizing the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Secondly, even if many conservatives support the Bush-era policies Obama has extended, it is difficult to celebrate the man who used his opposition to the War on Terror to win votes from the anti-war electorate, and then once elected, went on to do the very things he had so disparaged. Yes, most politicians make promises during the campaign they have no intention of keeping, but Obama's cynical and repulsive manipulation of vital national security issues like the Iraq War, Gitmo, waterboarding, rendition, etc. is not in the same order of magnitude as promising a chicken in every pot.

More generally, Bergen seems to confuse acting like a warrior and protecting our national security. Aggressive military action is often needed to combat evil, but killing bad guys doesn't necessarily protect our country.

Much of the above list consists of assassinations by drone or SEAL team, and while I'm glad to see these evil men no longer walking the Earth, protecting our national security is more complicated. Ex-chief of the CIA's Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, recently made the point on 60 Minutes that the Bush Administration captured al Qaeda enemy combatants to wring intelligence from them -- with methods the anti-war left called torture, worthy of Pol Pot or Hitler. Now Obama just blows them away, along with their knowledge of future plots to harm the U.S. When Osama was killed, Obama went on television and announced that the SEALs had seized a trove of intelligence material, alerting al Qaeda that their safe houses were no longer safe.

Bergen is correct to point out that Obama seems to relish these assassinations. Is this the sign of a realist willing to use violence, however distasteful it may be to his Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning nature, to protect the country he loves? From what I know of the President, this seems unlikely. I doubt that Obama loves the country he was elected to lead. He sees it as fundamentally flawed, responsible for a catalog of sins: racism, imperialism, homophobia, classism, capitalism, etc. Obama has revealed himself to be a ruthless Chicago thug, willing to kneecap his political enemies. Bring a knife to a fight, he'll bring a gun. (See Ed Lasky's recent AT article for an excellent summary.) Is it surprising then that he has no compunction about assassinating foreign enemies -- or even a U.S. citizen?

In the case of the overthrow of Gaddafi, Obama famously "led from behind," deferring to France and Great Britain. And the jury is still out on whether putting the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of an oil power will benefit our national security.

Obama did increase troop levels in Afghanistan, but the announcement was accompanied with a notice to the Taliban of our withdrawal date, telling them in effect that if they hung on for a few years, no one would resist when they took over.

What else might make conservatives question Mr. Obama's good faith in his efforts to protect our national security?

For one, he is currently suing the State of Arizona for trying to police illegal immigration from Mexico. It has been documented that Hezbollah is sending terrorists through Mexico into Arizona.

He did nothing to help the nascent uprising of Iranian students in 2009, and defers to Ahmadinejad whenever possible.

He is not a friend of Israel.

He has done nothing about North Korea's aggressive development of nuclear weapons.

He has given members of the Muslim Brotherhood security clearance inside his administration.

His foot dragging with energy development is damaging to our national security--while at the same time he gives billions to Brazil to develop offshore oil that we will then purchase. 

His instinct is to defer to international law and international organizations--the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Treaty etc.

He has proposed drastic cuts to our nuclear arsenal, from 1,550 strategic weapons to 300.

And most of all, his handling of the economy damages our national security, making us indebted to China and saddling our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt.

This impromptu list can no doubt be supplemented with dozens of other examples.

Yes, Obama got Osama and al-Awlaki. But has his Presidency strengthened our national security? It doesn't require cognitive disconnect to say absolutely not.

Peter L. Bergen's op-ed in last Sunday's New York Times, titled, "President Obama, Warrior in Chief" makes the following claims:

The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades. The president's many military accomplishments...are sizable.

Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda's leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden...

From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama's record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.

Mr. Bergen is right to point out, as Victor Davis Hanson and others have on many occasions, the deafening silence on the left about this bellicose side of Obama's Presidency.

Bergen is off base, however, when he criticizes hawkish conservatives for not embracing Obama's "military accomplishments." For one, conservatives have praised the President for several of the accomplishments listed above, in particular for authorizing the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Secondly, even if many conservatives support the Bush-era policies Obama has extended, it is difficult to celebrate the man who used his opposition to the War on Terror to win votes from the anti-war electorate, and then once elected, went on to do the very things he had so disparaged. Yes, most politicians make promises during the campaign they have no intention of keeping, but Obama's cynical and repulsive manipulation of vital national security issues like the Iraq War, Gitmo, waterboarding, rendition, etc. is not in the same order of magnitude as promising a chicken in every pot.

More generally, Bergen seems to confuse acting like a warrior and protecting our national security. Aggressive military action is often needed to combat evil, but killing bad guys doesn't necessarily protect our country.

Much of the above list consists of assassinations by drone or SEAL team, and while I'm glad to see these evil men no longer walking the Earth, protecting our national security is more complicated. Ex-chief of the CIA's Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, recently made the point on 60 Minutes that the Bush Administration captured al Qaeda enemy combatants to wring intelligence from them -- with methods the anti-war left called torture, worthy of Pol Pot or Hitler. Now Obama just blows them away, along with their knowledge of future plots to harm the U.S. When Osama was killed, Obama went on television and announced that the SEALs had seized a trove of intelligence material, alerting al Qaeda that their safe houses were no longer safe.

Bergen is correct to point out that Obama seems to relish these assassinations. Is this the sign of a realist willing to use violence, however distasteful it may be to his Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning nature, to protect the country he loves? From what I know of the President, this seems unlikely. I doubt that Obama loves the country he was elected to lead. He sees it as fundamentally flawed, responsible for a catalog of sins: racism, imperialism, homophobia, classism, capitalism, etc. Obama has revealed himself to be a ruthless Chicago thug, willing to kneecap his political enemies. Bring a knife to a fight, he'll bring a gun. (See Ed Lasky's recent AT article for an excellent summary.) Is it surprising then that he has no compunction about assassinating foreign enemies -- or even a U.S. citizen?

In the case of the overthrow of Gaddafi, Obama famously "led from behind," deferring to France and Great Britain. And the jury is still out on whether putting the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of an oil power will benefit our national security.

Obama did increase troop levels in Afghanistan, but the announcement was accompanied with a notice to the Taliban of our withdrawal date, telling them in effect that if they hung on for a few years, no one would resist when they took over.

What else might make conservatives question Mr. Obama's good faith in his efforts to protect our national security?

For one, he is currently suing the State of Arizona for trying to police illegal immigration from Mexico. It has been documented that Hezbollah is sending terrorists through Mexico into Arizona.

He did nothing to help the nascent uprising of Iranian students in 2009, and defers to Ahmadinejad whenever possible.

He is not a friend of Israel.

He has done nothing about North Korea's aggressive development of nuclear weapons.

He has given members of the Muslim Brotherhood security clearance inside his administration.

His foot dragging with energy development is damaging to our national security--while at the same time he gives billions to Brazil to develop offshore oil that we will then purchase. 

His instinct is to defer to international law and international organizations--the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Treaty etc.

He has proposed drastic cuts to our nuclear arsenal, from 1,550 strategic weapons to 300.

And most of all, his handling of the economy damages our national security, making us indebted to China and saddling our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt.

This impromptu list can no doubt be supplemented with dozens of other examples.

Yes, Obama got Osama and al-Awlaki. But has his Presidency strengthened our national security? It doesn't require cognitive disconnect to say absolutely not.

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