Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The CEO and the Critic 

The Washington Post Op-Ed Page really hammered Obama today regarding his position on Iraq. Considering how often we protest the MSM's "in the baggedness" on behalf of Democrats generally and Obama in particular, we must give particular credit when they identify a clear shortcoming for the home team and call it out. In this particular instance, the Post really gets it right. They refer to Iraq's future as a "vital strategic interest" of the United States, and observe that Obama's "indifference" to the outcome of the war is simply wrong, a bad judgment.

Read the whole thing.

This is death-knell criticism for an inexperienced candidate with consistently left-wing credentials in a conflict-ridden Middle East. A looming decision over the course of American policy-making viz. Iran only highlights the risks associated with Obama's foreign policy judgment, particular when contrasted with John McCain.

The centrality of the debate over Iraq to the decision for whom to cast one's November vote provides a wonderful scale with which to weigh the candidates. McCain defied the leader of his party and President, criticized his administration's management of the war, urged the replacement of his War Department leader and a change in strategy directed at achieving a strategic victory. He said he would rather lose the election and win the war. His judgment on this central priority has been vindicated. Therefore, McCain has been validated as a credible commander in chief.

By contrast, Obama first made his name as an opponent of the initial war decision (notwithstanding he was not at the time in the US Senate, and was not the beneficiary of the Iraq intelligence information all those voting senators had, including Clinton and McCain). When faced with the subsequent call on how to end the war, he advocated withdrawal, arguing that the Surge could not and would not work. Now proven wrong, Obama continues to argue for near term withdrawal despite tacit acknowledgement that his earlier posture is, ahem, "out of date".

The fundamental premise of near term withdrawal is that Iraq, and its outcome, is not of vital strategic consequence to the US. This is what Obama tells us with his policy prescription. This is what the Editors of the Post have correctly identified as his argument for withdrawal. Iraq doesn't matter. As an aside, he says Afghanistan matters more. And in this, Obama's judgment is wrong. And McCain's was and is correct. McCain even has the non triangulating cojones to say we should stay however long it takes to achieve victory -- that's how vital Iraq's future is to the US, in his judgment.

In this way, McCain emerges as a Chief Executive, not a critic. There's nothing wrong with being a critic. But an executive has to make decisions, based on limited facts, and take risk. A critic does not. This is what Theodore Roosevelt articulated so brilliantly in his Man in the Arena speech.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong
man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit
belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust
and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and
again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does
actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great
devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the
end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least
fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and
timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This is why, in the end, it may be that prospective voters acknowledge this sharp distinction between the two candidates. Because while they may like the notion of Obama, they respect the concrete reality of McCain.

CWCID: Instapundit


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 16, 12:51:00 PM:

I am a daily reader of the WAPO and I generally find it not of my beliefs, however I do think their editorial board is intellectually honest and as such I am glad to see they are pointing out Mr. Obama's inconsistencies. Unlike the NY Times, WAPO's ideology does not get in the way of the facts and in this particular case they are dead on with respect to the broader strategic importance of Iraq.

One huge benefit for taking out Sadam was the prospect of having a couple of very large military installations in a very dicey part of the world.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 16, 01:00:00 PM:

I wish McCain would give credit to the President for having the non triangulating cojones to insist on victory instead of abiding the near universal din for defeat. Of course some will say that would just reinforce a perception that McCain would be more of the same, but the rejoinder to that is, "So what? Bush was right about Iraq and the rest of you idiots were wrong. Now be man or woman enough to admit it." I suspect the President's polling might just ascend in the coming months, especially if the Democratic leaders continue their stupidity regarding domestic energy. Personally, I'm hoping they're every bit as stupid as they seem.

One quibble, if I may. At the risk of making a premature declaration, I think we've already achieved victory in Iraq. Right now the question is whether we are going to secure that victory or throw it away. One candidate thinks it vital to secure that victory, the other doesn't seem to think it matters one way or the other. After all the caterwalling about expending so much blood and treasure, you'd think the sacrifice would be more highly valued. But I guess some value nothing so much as grasping power. McCain's point in saying he would rather lose the election than lose the war is that the national interest trumps the personal. In contrast, Obama would rather win the election by essentially promising to lose Iraq. It simply amazes me that's assumed to be a strategy that can win him the White House.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Wed Jul 16, 01:35:00 PM:

The challenge for Obama is that he must keep his base happy (and motivated about the campaign, including more $) with respect to exiting Iraq ASAP, while at the same time trying to sound reasonable to the middle of the electorate. That is a very tough and slender needle to thread.

The main advantage Obama had is that public opinion turned against the war in significant numbers shortly after the last presidential election. That was perhaps the greatest win on the part of the insurgents. However, public opinion polls going negative on the war is not the same thing as a majority of Americans believing that the fastest possible exit is the best idea. Once it became clear over the past 12 months that the Surge was gaining traction (despite less than robust press coverage), it was almost as if a majority of Americans woke up and said, hey, wait a minute, Petraus can actually win this thing, let's see it through. Others have just tuned it out as background noise. Key elements of the Democratic base still want to be fully out within the first few months of an Obama administration (16 months is too long, but they understand he has to say that to get elected), not caring how much equipment is abandoned or what the security situation will be after a rushed departure.

What do you do if you're an anti-war candidate and you've just (barely) secured your party's nomination, and you have to adjust to a different reality -- both the facts on the ground there and the politics of it here? You try and thread that needle, but it's a transparent effort, and the WAPO and others are calling him on it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 16, 01:42:00 PM:

Kagan, Kagan, and Keane have an opinion piece in the WSJ, "The New Reality in Iraq" that is germane to this issue. They caution against my tendency to premature assumptions, but make the point that we are winning:

The blunt fact is this. In Iraq, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Shiite militias are badly off-balance. Now is exactly the time to continue the pressure to keep them from regaining their equilibrium. It need not, and probably will not, require large numbers of American casualties to keep this pressure on. But it will require a considerable number of American troops through 2009.

Recent suggestions in Washington that reductions could begin sooner or proceed more rapidly are premature. The current force levels will be needed through the Iraqi provincial elections later this year, and consideration of force reductions makes sense only after those elections are over and the incoming commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, has evaluated the new situation.

The benefits to the U.S. from seeing the fight through to the end far outweigh the likely costs. For one thing, Iraqis have shown their determination to increase their oil output, currently averaging 2.5 million barrels a day, as fast as they can – something that can only happen if their country is secure.

Far more important is the opportunity in our hands today to work with a Muslim country in the heart of the Arab world to inflict the most visible and humiliating defeat possible on al Qaeda. Success in Iraq also makes it possible to establish a strategic partnership with a legitimate, democratic majority-Shia state that is aligned with the U.S. against Iran.

But in Obama's superior judgment this is all stuff that will take care of itself if only we leave, and the sooner the better.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 16, 03:51:00 PM:

" This is why, in the end, it may be that prospective voters acknowledge this sharp distinction between the two candidates. "...While I can appreciate your optimism regarding the ability of the electorate to ferret out the better candidate,I'm not that much of a believer. The propensity of the electorate to continue to reelect the same shysters, liars, and thieves coupled with the inappropriate adulation of senator Obama raises serious doubts ,in my mind, of the ability of these voters to make an intelligent and/or informed choice.  

By Blogger Roy Lofquist, at Wed Jul 16, 10:44:00 PM:

I have been reading newspapers since about 1950. I knew even then that they had strong biases. The differences between the Boston Globe and the Herald Traveler were apparent to a 7 year old.

Yes, most surviving old media have a bias toward the Democratic Party. But they, most of them anyway, take pride in their ethics and professionalism.

The Clintons embarrassed the hell out of them. Probably worse than Nixon embarrassed Republicans. At least Nixon made a discrete exit. Now that the wicked witch is dead they are getting back to reporting.

It's not only the WAPO but the LAT and even The New Yorker. The Chicago papers are hardly on the Obama bandwagon. They are loyal Americans too. We may have political differences but I note that we are the greatest ever under the guidance of both parties.  

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