Saturday, March 19, 2011

Obama's Leadership style

The neo con right is leading the charge to criticize Pres. Obama for his style of leadership. Their newest complaint is that he just has taken too long to make a decision on Libya.  These are words coming from  the same folks who brought us the folly in Iraq.  We are supposed to take advice from them?  Had much more careful thought been given before the Iraq blunder, we would have had a better chance  to have finished off the Taliban and Bin Laden in Afghanistan...instead of getting our manpower and assets stuck in the tar pits of the unexpected, diversionary  quagmire of Iraq.

The neo cons and their fellow travellers did infinite harm to the ability of the US to win the hearts and minds of the middle eastern street.  Our US popularity ratings sank from some admiration to condemnation for advocating democracy and on the other hand hypocritically  supporting some of the most cruelly oppressive governments in the world, while launching the preemptive invasion of  a country that did not attack us. 

Hypocricy was and is not confined to our exercise of our foreign policy.  The world does take note of those who would violate democracy in order to save it.   US talk show personalities, some politicians, and other writers find a lucrative audience for their anti Muslim hate and fear mongering. Even some who acknowledge that 90% of world Muslims are not jihadists are ready to chuck tolerance of law abiding Muslims in the US  guaranteed by the flowery language of our constitution. Ginning up hatred and irrational fear is no way to win the war for hearts and minds anywhere .

Obama, with his address in Egypt  to his support of  the rebeling youth in North Africa, sees the bigger picture. Many of top leadership and proponents of the ideological rationale driving Al Qaeda came from Egypt and other North African countries. Winning the war against the terrorists  will  depend heavily on our yanking out from under the jihadists  their fertile grounds of hatred of the West on which they rely.

Obama's carefulness in convincing the Arabs to support any military action in Libya is not a matter of dithering; it is a careful structuring in our shift from imperialism to supporting the aspirations of the young, who will be calling the shots in their countries' foreign relations for generations to come.  Obama is playing for the long term and the bigger picture, while the failed approach of the past has been abandoned.

This is finesse....not bulling around in the china closet as his predecessors have done.  Being thoughtful, weighing the options, constructing a wise strategy and looking at the bigger picture is an asset and not a liability.. It is this message Obama's supporters ought to be shouting out from the platform of modern communications, web and cable talk.

We do not know yet if the intervention in Libya will succeed. It has just begun. But Obama has made his point: there is a shift in US policy toward greater support of the aspirations of the people of the middle east.

Pres. Obama has also wisely put the onus on France and the UK.  They do have strategic interests there. We may provide coordinating support, but for once our allies have stepped up to the plate and the Arab League applauds.   

If anything, Obama has appears to have learned from his predecessors .  By putting most of the burden for military actions on others, we have not taken our eye off the Afghanistan conflict or overextended ourselves as we did in Iraq....or get our ground troops stuck in an interminable mess.  Taking the neo cons' advice would have have us repeat an unfortunate history of acting rashly first and being surprised by  unanticipated consequences.

While our support of Saudi Arabia and the still oppressive regimes in Yemen and  Bahrain are contradictions of our shift in policy, at least our support of democratic movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya represent the direction the Obama administration prefers and is willing to support when our strategic oil interests are not at such a risk. Even then, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a stern lecture today to Bahrain to  become more answerable to its people and  to stop the violence against them.  The implication is that even strategic friends must stop being despots. Whether these words will be backed up by actions is yet to be seen, but the warning has been issued and the tone has been set.

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