November 16, 2009
Obama and Plummeting Military Morale
New army surveys, reports the Wall Street Journal, show that morale has fallen sharply among soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and confirm an unusually high suicide rate in their ranks.
Perhaps this has something to do with doubts about their commander-in-chief's commitment to win this war, as evidenced by his refusal to stand staunchly with them in spirit and provide necessary troops and other resources. With fatalities and injuries surging, the president's prolonged and frazzled indecision on how to manage this struggle must leave these soldiers in limbo, if not hell itself. Having first (very belatedly) consulted on strategy directly with the man in charge of the war, General Stanley McChrystal, President Obama proceeded for months to pore over, appear to accept, throw out, and then start all over examining various options.
In an act of deep interpersonal significance, as Claudia Rosett observes, the president has not bothered to visit Afghanistan to bolster morale. Yet to buck up his foreign policy credentials, Obama managed to make a campaign stop there while running for president. Once elected, he found time to extend a friendly hand to Muslims in Cairo, lobby for Chicago's Olympics bid, vacation in Martha's Vineyard, and have a "date night" in New York City with his wife. Soon he'll be off to Oslo to accept a Nobel Peace Prize, which he has done nothing yet to deserve in Afghanistan, at home, or elsewhere in the world.
Additionally, the president's obfuscations and omissions vis-à-vis the thirteen slaughtered at Fort Hood doubtless did little to fortify our soldiers. Obama could not bring himself, as Michael Goodwin and others noted, to call the massacre what it clearly was: treason and terrorism, visited by an army officer upon his defenseless comrades. While failing to acknowledge that Nidal Malik Hasan had shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he fired his weapons, the president commented, "No just and loving God looks upon them with favor." The president declared the nation to be "in a time of war," but then downgraded the killings to the level of a mere "tragedy." He alluded to 9/11, warning that "the same extremists who killed nearly three thousand Americans continue to endanger America," but neglected to say that this same militant Islamism led to the recent slaughter. He was silent about the shooter's contacts with al-Qaeda, but he stated that "No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts."
Rosett urges the president to betake himself without further delay to Afghanistan and deliver "a soaring speech" to our troops, such as to "display for their benefit and the world's, that as commander-in-chief of these men and women who are risking their lives under his command, he is not AWOL."
But one wonders just how soaring such a message could possibly be coming from one who cannot muster the leadership to decide how to proceed, and indeed even if they should proceed at all, on their battleground. So geared to mollify his leftist political base has this president's every action seemed so far that our courageous soldiers have every reason to fear themselves but chess pieces in his long game of political calculation.
Can the hearts of our troops yet be touched by a commander-in-chief who has for so long failed to show his face, who has left them alone on the battlefield? By now they, like many among us, must acknowledge that this is the same commander-in-chief who, during his bid for the presidency, cynically -- then, too, for rank political reasons -- trumpeted the war in Afghanistan as the most "necessary" in the fight against terrorism.
But above all, the drag that this president exerts on our soldiers comes from his unwillingness even to forthrightly name the enemy with whom they are locked in deadly combat.
If President Obama's lack of leadership and his alienation of our troops continue, he may go down in history as America's great demoralizer-in-chief. But vastly more momentous than his place in history, his failure to lead this nation and the world during these hazardous times may well precipitate a series of crises that will plague us for generations.