Michael Barone: Whether He Likes It or Not, Obama Must Command





[Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.]

We didn’t need this. By “we,” I mean the large majority of citizens who want America to succeed in Afghanistan. By “this,” I mean the Rolling Stone article that quoted Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides saying uncomplimentary things about Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other civilian officials.

It’s true that most of the negative remarks were attributed to staffers rather than to McChrystal himself. And it’s true that none of them amounts to insubordination or refusal to carry out orders, the offense for which Gens. George McClellan and Douglas MacArthur were appropriately fired....

Like most American presidents, and like all presidents during the last 50 years, Obama came to office with little preparation for being commander-in-chief.

Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and both Bushes had served in the military, but not at a level that gave them much insight in evaluating military commanders. Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and the younger Bush as governors commanded state National Guard units, but that’s nothing like commanding the world’s largest military forces....



A president is entitled to take political factors into consideration in making military decisions. Franklin Roosevelt, who of all our presidents showed the greatest gift for selecting the right general or admiral for particular assignments, ordered the invasion of North Africa in 1942 against the unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He believed that the American people and our allies needed to see America taking decisive action in the European Theater, even in a peripheral location....

We didn’t need this, and Barack Obama didn’t, either. But he wanted the job, and now he must command.


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