Another Reveal into Obama’s Confused Psyche

President Obama’s deep-seated narcissism and overweening self-regard is old news to objective observers of his administration. That Obama is an odd psychological duck is a given, but when new facets reveal themselves it is often train-wreck fascinating, reinforcing a sense of wonderment that this man was twice elected, and dread that he still has nine months left in office. The most recent surprise comes in the Atlantic’s wordy apologia for Obama’s disastrous foreign policy, which focuses on the President’s feckless decision to retreat from his “red line” for direct American intervention in the Syrian civil war. That Obama, to the shock of allies and even his own inner circle backed down, is well known. The Atlantic’s revelation that he is “Very proud of that moment” and indeed considers it courageous act, demonstrates just how warped is Obama’s psyche.

In 2012 Obama famously drew a red line over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, following a sarin gas attack that killed over 1000 civilians. And then a year later Obama turned tail when challenged by the Syrians, although the military, America’s allies, and even his inner circle of advisors believed American action was necessary and imminent. The targets were selected and the armed forces prepared. In Hillary Clinton’s words “If you say you’re going to strike you have to strike.  There is no choice.” It’s not often that Hillary is right, but Obama’s spineless bungling was so obvious that most everybody, including America’s friends and enemies, understood exactly what had occurred. Most everybody that is, except Obama himself.   

Somehow Obama twisted this failure into a success in his own mind. To comprehend just how convoluted one’s thinking must be to get there, let’s consider what a “red line” or more commonly “a line in the sand” really means in normal human understanding. 

At its core, a line in the sand is the point of no return, which the man who draws it must honor, or lose all face and credibility. In modern foreign policy and military parlance, this phrase is usually rendered as a “red line,” a term particularly associated with the State of Israel, which has over the years survived and prospered by employing and enforcing various limits on what it could tolerate from enemies and rivals. The most important thing to understand about a “red line” is that it’s as much a statement of determination and principle, as it is an attempt to deter specific actions. 

A “line in the sand” is a well-worn literary trope for good reason -- it gets at very fundamental understandings of honor, commitment and bravery that even children can grasp. In its most common form, the Western film, the provocations that make the hero draw the line are far less important than that he makes his stand and doesn’t back down. 

Obama inverts this understanding to make himself the hero for backing down, when everyone else (other than his most devoted sycophants) sees something else. The Atlantic article partially describes Obama’s thought process. In his own mind Obama decided to be “controversial.” He refused to follow the “playbook in Washington.” According to the playbook “responses tend to be militarized.” And the “playbook can also be a trap” and “lead to bad decisions.” When I was a boy and I didn’t want to do something hard, I came up with excuses too, which my father correctly dismissed as immature rationalizations. Nobody ever seems to have taught Obama this lesson and so he rationalizes his own weakness with adolescent excuses and gets away with it. 

Obama took office set on differentiating himself from the “cowboy” he preceded, a term that both his supporters at home and abroad used as a derogatory term. “Cowboy” here meant recklessness in foreign policy, an idea that is debatable, but with which a good portion of the American public agreed. George W. Bush may or may not have been a cowboy in that sense. But he certainly was a cowboy in a more positive sense. First, he acted like a man. When confronted with a challenge he did not lightly back down. When American credibility was on the line, he remained firm. This mature and honorable aspect of Bush’s presidency is something that Obama not only rejects -- it’s evidently something he can’t even comprehend.                   

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