With the publication of Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Obama’s War,” conservatives have been pushing the meme that the book shows Obama to be indecisive, “ponderous,” naive or a combination of all three — somehow unsuited to be Commander-in-chief.
Kathleen Parker picks up on the theme in yesterday’s WaPo:
What is of some concern — at least based on those excerpts that have leaked thus far — is that the president gets pushed around by the generals. And that impression feeds into the larger one that Barack Obama is not quite commander in chief. He seems far more concerned with being politically savvy than with winning what he has called the good war.
Actually, that’s exactly backwards. Obama, unlike Bush, stood up to military men who gave him dishonest assessments and tried to back him into a corner. Woodward wrote:
President Obama was on edge.
For two exhausting months, he had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were “really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted.”
He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end. When his national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009, for its eighth strategy review session, the president erupted.
“So what’s my option? You have given me one option,” Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command.
“We were going to meet here today to talk about three options,” Obama said sternly. “You agreed to go back and work those up.”
Still, they refused to follow orders. When Obama learned of a third, “hybrid” option,
. . . he instructed Gates and Mullen to present it. Mullen had other ideas. He used a classified war game exercise – code-named Poignant Vision and held at the Pentagon on Oct. 14, 2009 – to support his case against the option.
Believing the game was rigged, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, Obama’s representative from the National Security Council, boycotted it. According to participants, Poignant Vision did not have the rigor of a traditional war game, in which two teams square off. This exercise was a four-hour seminar.
That’s dishonest and belies the code of honor that Petreaus and Mullen claim to live by. Happily, Obama stood up to them, insisting on a plan that doesn’t tie the U.S. down in Afghanistan for ten years or cost a trillion dollars.
Obama knows that it’s his job to tell the generals what to do. And all those conservatives who insist on fealty to the Constitution should be pleased that Obama insists on civilian control of the military.