Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Limitations of “Fake Right, Go Left” [Fred Schwarz]
Deebow at Blackfive has an interesting perspective on President Obama’s announced plan to investigate the Afghans for killing POWs in the fall of 2001:
Having spent a bit of time as an Embedded Trainer (kind of like being an 18B, master logistician, finance guru, operations specialist and contract specialist all rolled into a big warrior/diplomat tortilla), I can tell you that we had one really big picture tactical and strategic rule by which my partner Capt. Jack and I lived by:
Afghanistan is their country and as such we are here to train them how to be an Army and not to get into how they conduct their business unless it will interfere with our mission objectives or place us in danger (because their were only two of us vs. their entire company).
. . . My job was to teach them to be an effective fighting force, and part of that was to be how they treated their enemy.
But a couple times, I was staring down the barrel of my M4 with my back to my buddies trying to make my point about how prisoners are treated while the Afghans (more of them than me) stared down the barrel of their AK-47 trying to explain to me the way they deal with prisoners. Tense moment in my military career for certain.
Considering how sensitive the situation in Afghanistan still remains, and how much we’ve learned about respecting and accommodating cultures that are very different from ours, this might seem like a bad time to dredge up old charges. But as Deebow points out, from Obama’s perspective, it’s the perfect time:
This isn't about getting the Afghans to search their souls and decide if they treated their enemies well. Having worked with them and understanding their culture, they are not encumbered by many of the ethical dilemmas that our soldiers face when dealing with an enemy who is ruthless and does not share our respect for laws or regulations in the conduct of war. And it isn't about finding blame either...
It is about the fact that Sonia Sotomayor starts her confirmation hearings today. It is about his Health Care Nationalization program. It is about the continued skyrocketing unemployment and dismal economic malaise that gets lightly skimmed by the Old Media everyday.
It is about "QUICK!!! LOOK OVER THERE!!!" as the Chicken Littles of his administration try to distract attention from what their real goals are and try to seize more and more power.
Speaking of Sotomayor, I’ve been struck by the contrast between her testimony today and that of John Roberts and Samuel Alito at their confirmation hearings. Roberts and Alito stood up for their beliefs and defended them ably, knowing that it might lose them some votes, whereas Sotomayor’s strategy has been to shamelessly deny or disavow everything she’s spent the last 20 years saying. Now where could she have learned that?
In an odd way, that’s why I’m willing to cut President Obama a tiny bit of slack, about the size of a postage stamp, on the Afghan war-crimes thing — because, as with 95 percent of what he says, you know he doesn’t mean it. I’m pretty sure that deep down, Obama understands what things were like in November of 2001, and his inclination is to let Afghans be Afghans. So I suspect that in the end, this investigation will yield nothing more than an equivocally worded statement of regret.
Still, you have to wish that Sotomayor and Obama would be more like Roberts and Alito. Instead of backing off and denying and rationalizing and cheese-paring their rhetoric, Roberts and Alito said what they believed and defended it, like grown-ups. That’s why they will be remembered as influential Supreme Court justices, while Sotomayor will be a minor figure — and why Obama will go down in history as a man of fine words but few results. Winning people over is harder than tricking them, but the respect it gains is much deeper.
Last week an environmental group draped Mount Rushmore with a banner bearing Obama’s face and the legend AMERICA HONORS LEADERS, NOT POLITICIANS. The cause they were supporting, Waxman-Markey, is nonsense, and their methods were juvenile, and the implicit disdain for the grubby business of meeting the people’s needs, instead of simply ruling over them, is offensive. Even so, the banner had half a point.
A politician becomes a leader by holding strong beliefs, putting forth a persuasive case for them, and then, once in office, following through and making them work. You don’t become a leader by spin-doctoring your way into office and sneaking legislation through, hiding your real views all the way; and when it comes to security, you don’t become a leader by following reasonable policies while holding them at arm’s length and covering your nose.
Obama’s plan for the presidency, if he had one, was evidently to get into office and then massively increase the role (and debt) of the state before anyone noticed. But people are already starting to notice, because when you gain power by misleading the voters, your support is built on sand. In similar fashion, the American and Afghan militaries may be glad that Obama is letting them do their job, but things like the war-crimes investigation show that he’ll toss them aside at a moment’s notice if he needs to create a distraction or placate some pressure group. It’s hard to lead when you’re always going in two directions at once.
07/14 06:25 PMShare