Noemie Emery smartly observes, “Patrolling the world is not an idea that appeals to Obama by nature, nor one he can reach without strain.” She explains:
He was not taken, like Kennedy, to North Church as a toddler, and made to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride.” In more ways than one he grew up outside of the mainland, with an outsider’s view of America’s presence, and when he came here, he gravitated to its more radical critics. … If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality, Obama is a liberal who is being mugged slowly by the realization that the weight of the world really does rest on his shoulders: That he is no longer an outsider or activist or a professor, but the real life commander in chief.
It isn’t yet clear that Obama has made that transition or is willing to put aside his lefty academic fixations. At West Point, he still couldn’t get out the word victory or avoid providing the netroots with a security blanket (i.e., a withdrawal date), which then had to be ripped from their clutches by the principal grown-up in the administration, Robert Gates. At West Point, Obama also felt compelled to prattle on about “prohibiting torture” (actually, he prohibited everything from a face slap to loud music; torture was illegal before) and closing Guantanamo. He’s still pressing ahead with the KSM civilian trial. All this suggests that he’s not quite able to give up the lure of leftist lawyers and activists, whose goal above all else is to demonstrate the Neanderthal-ness of the Bushies. Being commander in chief means fighting a war on terror against the terrorists, not the prior administration or our own intelligence community.
Meanwhile Obama seems blissfully unconcerned about Iran’s dogged pursuit of nuclear weapons and disdain for engagement. He seems to lack a viable Plan B. (Plan A was “Obama charms the mullahs by denigrating America.”) As Bob Kagan wrote recently, we don’t yet know whether Obama can play “hardball” with our enemies (the real ones, not Fox News and ObamaCare opponents).
But Obama is plainly a president in progress when it comes to foreign policy. He had no significant national-security or military experience before coming to the Oval Office, so it’s not surprising that he would treat war-planning like a negotiation over a public-works bill. Perhaps their all-consuming addiction to politics and desire to see foreign policy through the prism of domestic politics will, in this case, actually help the Obami get it right. After all, the public opposes a KSM civilian trial and the closing of Guantanamo, is willing to use military force to deprive the mullahs of nuclear weapons, and is supportive of a troop surge for Afghanistan. So if Obama can’t find his inner commander in chief, perhaps he can simply be a smart pol — something he’s quite practiced at.