A history lesson not told

When Kathleen Parker discussed Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars;” I wasn’t sure whether she was gloating or salivating over Woodward supposedly slashing the President for not being anyone’s best idea of a president or Commander in Chief. Perhaps the book should really have been titled

The Bush legacy bequeathed to his successor

Because it seems to me that Woodward as well as Parker suffered a disconnect between the last administration and this one.

How would you like to run a war on sound bites?  To continue a war long after even your own team had declared a need to end it in months, not years, to pull out of Iraq and return to its citizens their sovereignty in a year rather than being the behind the scenes puppet master of a mostly ineffective government throughout the last administration?  And only because Iraq could be politically milked to accuse any critics of being traitors, the Democrats as soft on terrorism, and an assurance of achieving that GOP majority for many decades into the future.  That’s not “strong leadership” if this is what Parker wanted to see.

Compare this to Vietnam. The need by Lyndon Johnson to micromanage the war from the White House.  So did Donald Rumsfeld have the blessings of the last administration to micromanage the war.  And what did that accomplish, anyway?  Or to compare the former Soviet Union’s struggles with Afghanistan against a determined enemy.  Tell the people back home “Pravda style” that the determined enemy in Iraq was some kind of ragtag group of misfits going around stirring up trouble.  Even as the American and allied forces body count went up into the thousands at the hands of a people who were a bit more than a few remnants of Saddam Hussein sympathizers.  The very fact that the Bush administration did not end this war and bequeathed it to his successor, should have in fact been the starting place of this book or even Parker’s editorial.  GW wasn’t exactly a fellow capable of nuance, or of thinking things through and considering the long term prospects of going to war:  financially, the human toll, or a feel good need to create a democracy in a land that had never known it.  But, his administration did not leave to the generals the power to run the war, to develop battle strategies, to put at need equipment and manpower in the places where they would have been most effective.  And by that measure, GW was declared a “strong leader?”  Obama on the other hand puts his generals in charge of doing what needs to be done to best execute a war and he is a fellow literally accused of not knowing his own mind?  How about that.

Exactly what do people think that a Commander in Chief is anyway?  All he does is execute the orders for war and is the last person in the military chain of command.  Long before any feedback would presumably get to him of course; it would go through the squad leader to the platoon Sgt, to the platoon leader to the Company Commander, from there to a post commander and then up the line of generals to possibly the Pentagon and finally reaching the president’s desk.  The Commander in Chief only executes the orders for war, it is the generals who carry out the tasks for war.  Was that something that Woodward seems to have forgotten?  If you think about it in these terms, that the Commander in Chief’s actual job ends the moment that war starts; then what would be “telling” about Woodward’s “expose” of the Obama White House?  Seems to me that GW looked to war to keep his base happy.  Without question, the political underpinnings of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would have the political influence as to what Obama’s own base might or might not do by the next election.  The bottom line of Parker’s editorial about this book is that Woodward tried to create a vacuum around Obama and to judge him distinctly different from his predecessor.  As though the wars were solely Obama’s fault and sole responsibility instead of a continuation of failures from the previous administration that kept both these wars on-going.

Aside from this book which I may indeed pick up; I have a question for my readers:  What truly do you think of a thoughtful and nuanced man who brings a measure of normalcy to the current administration unlike the scandal plagued and sound bite radicalism of the last one?  Normalcy that seems to be such a shock to Obama’s detractors that they want to regard this normalcy as an utmost failure!

Well now, let me lay it on the line; we had eight years of a wild ride where the guy at the wheel would take us around hair pin curves at over a hundred miles an hour, or ignore the road closed sign and take us on a doomsday run where the road ends abruptly just like that.  The bridge is out and junior revs the engine and tries to jump the car over the river.  He doesn’t obey the speed limit or the school zone signs, he doesn’t obey stop signs either.  Along the way, his particular recklessness has likely produced many casualties.

Then you get another driver behind the wheel who obeys immediately speed limits and stop signs.  He doesn’t go at high speeds through school zones.  He recognizes road closed signs and takes a good look to be sure the bridge is truly out and afterwards, plots a safe course to get to his destination.  Do we truly wish to call this safe driver a weakling or a fool?  I guess that between Parker and Woodward, the answer would be yes.  And that would be unfortunate.

I remember not so long ago when there were people who criticized the very idea that up could become down, black could become white, day could become night.  Today, such is the fury that certain radicals have toward Obama that they will indeed declare day to be night rather than accept the Obama presidency.  Obama isn’t a faceless cypher upon whom the political radicals may project their worst failings, their deepest hatreds or their darkest fears.  He is, for better or worse, his own man.  And as far as I can see, if Woodward didn’t himself inject Woodward into the Obama administration, then Parker injected herself; through the medium of Woodward’s book.


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