Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Barack Obama: Reluctant Warrior

As we enter into the closing months of 2013, we're faced with a serious debate about the United States' role in the world; should the United States intervene in the Syrian civil war? It's a debate that's been growing for months now with the voices of those in favor of military intervention growing each week as it becomes increasingly clear that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people.

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This has put President Obama, winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, in a most precarious situation. Here is a man who inherited two wars when he entered into office (Iraq and Afghanistan) and also initiated military actions to overthrow the government in Libya. Since taking office, Obama increased drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan and increased the troop count there while also winding down the war in Iraq. It's quite clear that after twelve years of two wars, the United States isn't ready for more military action.

Yet the debate wages on with Obama, himself, having just made the pitch to the American people for why we should get involved in Syria. And just like the previous five years of his presidency, Obama has many critics and they're coming from both sides of the political spectrum. On one hand, you have people saying that the President's proposals aren't enough. On the other hand, you have those who say the United States has no right to intervene in Syria.

Barack Obama can't win.

There are some who have even said that Obama should return his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize because of his actions as commander-in-chief and that him considering military action in Syria is further proof to support that demand. I'd like to remind these people that it's not like the Syrian civil war just started a month ago and Obama's rushing to jump in; it's been going on for a couple years now and Obama has done everything he can to avoid getting involved.

Since he hit the national scene in 2004, Obama has been an advocate for the end of US military action overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, since he's been President he was slow to end the Iraq War and increased troop levels in Afghanistan. But he did so with the intent of leaving those areas responsibly. Even though Obama wanted to bring our troops home, he wanted to make sure that we didn't just abandon the people whose countries we have literally occupied for the last decade. He's tried to be mature in his approach and make sure that things are set there.

Obama has been reluctant to intervene in Syria and only because of recent evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government has he now decided to take action. Does that make him a warmonger? No. Looking at last five years, I would say that Obama is a Reluctant Warrior who only fights the battle that he has to fight. A warrior doesn't go looking for a fight and Obama has never looked for a fight.

Some can easily say that he's been too slow to act in certain situations. This is probably true. However, I think that only re-enforces my case that he's a reluctant warrior. He's careful about how and when to intervene. I recently heard a conservative radio talk show host challenge an aggressive liberal caller to identify the Obama Doctrine. The truth is, Obama doesn't have a doctrine. Unlike George W. Bush who had a clearly defined international strategy, Obama's strategy is constantly shifting and changing because that's what the world does. It's never the same from one day to the next. To have one cookie cutter strategy, in my opinion, is a mistake. You need to be flexible and change according to the times. That gives conservatives fuel to say that he's a weak leader, but I say that it makes him a smart leader because he watches the situation to see how it takes shape before jumping in.

I hope and pray for a peaceful solution to the situation in Syria and that the United States doesn't get involved. I have no opinion one way or another, to be honest, but I do know that our President has a very tough decision to make. I don't envy him but I pray for him to make the best decision he can.

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