Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time for the President to be President

Note: I originally wrote this for Alexandria. I decided to exercise my power as author of this blog and post it here as well. Enjoy!

Critics of America should consider carefully whether they really want what they have wished for: an America more restrained, "back in its box" deferential to other countries --or even, less successful.

Bronwen Maddox writes this in her book "In Defense of America". I am a political junkie, an really enjoy reading books about America written by foreign authors. I read this book last summer, and the line I quote above has stuck in my head. "What would happen if the United States did what many foreign leaders claim to want us to do, and simply leave other nations to take care of themselves?" With the election of President Obama, we are starting to see just how much Europeans like it.

This week, there have been two different articles in two different foreign publications calling President Obama to action in Afghanistan. So far, those calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Writing in the UK Telegraph, Toby Harden points out the that the President appears to still be campaigning and hasn't yet started governing. Mr. Harden points out that President Obama has attended 22 fund raisers since being sworn in. President Bush attended six in his first year in office. He says later in his piece:

All this says much about Mr Obama's priorities at a time when he is sitting on an urgent request for 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, seemingly unsure about whether the counter-insurgency strategy he announced in March is the right one.

This call for action is repeated this morning in another international publication. In an article entitled "We're Waiting, Mr. President" appearing in Der Spiegel, Claus Christian Malzahn argues that "Obama must provide better leadership on Afghanistan". He goes on to say:

So far Obama has only made it clear that he doesn't intend to withdraw any troops and that he hasn't decided yet whether to add more soldiers. But this smells more like a lazy compromise than a clear statement of intent, and it has led to speculation in Washington that Obama could wash his hands of the matter by announcing a moderate troop buildup and newly packaged diplomatic initiatives.

I would argue that this qualifies as a "do nothing" approach. In it, President Obama doesn't have to commit to persecuting the war like he and Vice President Biden said they would while campaigning for these offices. He also doesn't have to give his political enemies ammunition by retreating from Afghanistan. He simply chooses a middle of the road approach and goes back to health care reform.

Sometimes, our best advice can be found right here at home. Yesterday was the 45th Anniversary of Ronald Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech. In it, he says the following when discussing communism:

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we're willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Now let's set the record straight. There's no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there's only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.

These words ring true with Afghanistan. It would be easy to pack up our bags and head home. The easiest thing to do is not always the right thing to do. President Obama campaigned hard to become President of the United States. No one forced him into this office. He went after it, and he has the job now. With that position comes great responsibilities. It's time President Obama lived up to the office.

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