When presented with various options for Afghanistan but none were satisfactory, Barack Obama had the guts to do the right thing and demand more choices. This shows a tremendous difference for his predecessor, who was so spineless and lacking in intellectual curiosity that he allowed the neoconservatives to call the shots after 9/11, regardless of how much harm their policies were doing to our country. No matter how badly things were going, Bush would never think of questioning what we were doing. Andrew Sullivan comments:
What we are seeing here, I suspect, is what we see everywhere with Obama: a relentless empiricism in pursuit of a particular objective and a willingness to let the process take its time. The very process itself can reveal – not just to Obama, but to everyone – what exactly the precise options are. Instead of engaging in adolescent tests of whether a president is “tough” or “weak”, we actually have an adult prepared to allow the various choices in front of us be fully explored. He is, moreover, not taking the decision process outside the public arena. He is allowing it to unfold within the public arena…
What strikes me about this is the enormous self-confidence this reveals. Here is a young president, prepared to allow himself to be portrayed as “weak” or “dithering” in the slow and meticulous arrival at public policy. He is trusting the reality to help expose what we need to do. He is allowing the debate – however messy and confusing and emotional – to take its time and reveal the real choices in front of us. This is politically risky, of course. Those who treat politics as a contact-sport, whose insistence is on the “game” of who wins which news cycle, or who can spin each moment in a political storm as a harbinger of whatever, will pounce and shriek and try to bounce the president into a decision. And those who believe that what matters in war is charging ahead regardless at all times will also grandstand against the president’s insistence on prudence.
But he won’t be bounced and his concern seems to be genuinely to do the right and the most sustainable thing. Which is a kind of strength we haven’t seen in a president since Reagan.
Considering the mess Obama inherited both at home and in foreign policy, it is good to have a president who can think outside of the box and not just continue along the same path. This doesn’t guarantee he will always make the right choice, but the chances for actually solving problems and avoiding quagmires is much greater.