Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fournier Counters Woodward

Frequent Obama critic Ron Fournier compliments the President after his preliminary read of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' book in The National Journal.

In what Bob Woodward called a "harsh" judgment of President Obama, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes of the commander-in-chief adding troops to Afghanistan over the objections of his political team, second-guessing that decision, and never quite trusting his generals. "For him," Gates writes in his memoir, "it's all about getting out." To that I say, bravo. While excerpts of Gates's books are being interpreted as embarrassing for Obama, I'm looking forward to reading the memoir in full—and expect to come away more impressed with the president than his Defense chief.

"As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his," Gates wrote. The only troubling thing about this assessment is Obama's apparent lack of ownership—and it rings true, given his penchant for ducking responsibility during his first five years in office.

But doubts about an ally and his commanders? We need more of that. A lack of skepticism, curiosity, and reflection sunk Bush. Further back, who knows how many lives would have been saved during the Vietnam War had President Johnson acted on his private doubts, most of which didn't come to light until after he left office. Abraham Lincoln ran through a series of generals until he found one he could trust to win the Civil War, Ulysses Grant.

If military commanders were shown disrespect or given obstacles to fighting war, that would be one thing. But if they were questioned and challenged and kept in check, it is another. Isn't that the president's job?

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