Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not Exactly Inspiring Confidence

Readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't had much to say about what the US should or shouldn't do in Egypt or Libya.  It seems to me that there is nothing obvious or compelling about any policy option with respect to either of those places and to that extent I sympathize greatly with the difficult choices facing President Obama and his Administration. 

What I can't sympathize with, however, is his apparent unwillingness to make any choice at all.  The latest action seems to me tentative still, more like putting a decision off than actually deciding.  To be in charge is to choose, something or nothing, and then, as clearly as possible, to articulate and implement that choice.  A rudderless ship as big as the U.S.S. United States is not merely pathetic, it's dangerous.   Unfortunately, whatever qualities Obama inspired in 2008, confidence is not among them now.

What I can't tell is what, exactly, is the chief cause of this indecisiveness.  Is it mostly a product of the partly congenital, partly deliberate aloofness that seems to describe Barack Obama?  Charles Krauthammer, for one, has long noted a pattern in which Obama seems always to want to remain above it all, mundane politics that is, foreign and domestic, preferring instead only to descend at the last moment, when most of the fighting is already done, in order to play more poignantly the role of  healer, or savior even.

Or, is the indecision more a consequence of being a contemporary liberal Democrat for whom the exercise of US power is always suspect, if not unjust by definition?  Unless, of course, one can be sure that absolutely no American national interests are at stake.  When it is clear that none are at stake, then, and only then, is the spending of American treasure and the shedding of American blood warranted.  To this point, at least, the presence or absence of American interests in these two countries is not altogether clear, hence, the hand-wringing.  (I should add that for far too many on the Left the clarity sought after is not the absence of American interests, but in fact the presence of something fundamentally contrary to them.  That's the side they'll be on; that's the policy option they'll support.  Sadly, for our country, this president's pedigree suggests that he shares more than a bit of this kind of thinking.)

Or, might we more simply lay most of the dithering and dawdling at the feet of the much remarked upon lack of executive experience, combined, I hasten to add, with what appears to be a more academic cast of mind?  A solid academic is quite skilled at analyzing, less so at choosing.  Until the probability for actually realizing Plato's ideal philosopher-king is greater, much greater, than it is now, I'd prefer to keep our philosophers in the classroom and our kings, however dull, but always decisive, at the helm of the ship of state.  Someone must steer.

Or, and I hate to say it, but it could be some ominous combination of all three (or more).  God forbid.

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