Given the increase in troops in Afghanistan, the extension of the Patriot Act, the continuation of Robert Gates’ stint as defense secretary, the recent success in capturing senior Al Qaeda operatives, and the increase in effective drone attacks in Pakistan, why are so many still worried that our new president may be weak on defense?
Is it because he made it a priority to close the Guantanamo military prison during his first few days in office before he had a plan to deal with the consequences of that decision? Didn’t we buy the notion that Guantanamo has been a key recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists? Don’t we all believe that as soon as we close Guantanamo that Al Qaeda will be severely weakened or perhaps forced to disband?
Did many citizens find Obama’s rationale for abandoning the Eastern European missile defense shield to be valid? Was this a sound strategic military move or did we just abandon Poland and the Czech Republic in an attempt to appease the Russians?
Many liberals see waterboarding, which causes no permanent damage to the prisoner, as the moral equivalent of torture. Do most of us agree with this assessment, or are everyday Americans afraid there will be no Jack Bauer to help us when push comes to shove?
Is the president getting criticism for his attorney general’s (AG) decision to treat foreign terrorists as common criminals (by indicting them and trying them in civilian court as opposed to military tribunals)? Was it only the potential cost and disruption of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City that concerned the general public, or was it the whole notion of giving these savage barbarians the rights (to an attorney, to remain silent, etc.) of American citizens?
American citizens want to be fair and humane, but they also want justice, proportionate punishment, and reliable protection from radicals of all kinds. The president and his AG say they want the same, so why do so many Americans not believe them? Is all of the criticism and suspicion coming only from right-wing political opponents? It does not appear so. How is it that the treatment of terrorists has become a political issue?
It probably did not help when the president called the Fort Hood mass murder an “isolated incident” in spite of all the facts to the contrary. Plus, both the president and AG Holder seemed reluctant to acknowledge that U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused perpetrator, was an American-born Muslim of Jordanian descent with a history of anti-American sentiments.
Were these attitudes, mistakes, and reluctances just an attempt to protect innocent American Muslims, or did they reflect a mindset that thinks of terrorists as just common criminals? Is the general public concerned that Attorney General Holder hired several government attorneys at the Department of Justice who have a history of defending terrorists and/or of opining that terrorists have citizen-like rights?
Perhaps everyday Americans understand the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.” Americans may not be as brutally direct as Winston Churchill, but most are not willing to give terrorists the rights that legitimate POWs deserve. Most Americans believe that even POW rights need to be earned by following certain codes of conduct.
So, is the president being misunderstood or misrepresented? Does his lack of military service unfairly prejudice some against him, or are American worries valid? Does his constant apologizing for America reflect a concern he has about American history, or is he just attempting to placate or sweet-talk our enemies into cooperation?
Are so many citizens wrong to be concerned about the president’s past anti-American associations or his appointments of Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, and countless left-wing czars, or should we rest comfortably knowing that he is just taking a different route to keep us safe?
It is clear that many citizens and many in the US military are concerned about the president’s limited rules of engagement in Afghanistan and that he appears uncomfortable around military personnel. However, these rules may be appropriate and his apparent discomfort may just be due to his lack of experience in military matters.
The real questions are: Does Obama understand the depth and nature of the threats facing America? Does he know what to do about them? And will he listen to his military advisors, or will too many of his defense decisions be based primarily on political calculations.
The proof will be in the pudding and the pudding is not yet cooked. Will he keep Iran nuclear free, will he deal effectively with North Korea, will he stop terrorist and criminals from crossing our borders, will he get outfoxed by Russia, does he know how to deal with China, will he support our allies, will he keep our defenses strong, and will he keep America safe? Time will tell.
Janie Johnson is the author of Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand – An American Philosophy.