The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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Obama’s indecision hurts our troops

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, several candidates, most notably Hillary Clinton, accused Barack Obama of being na’ve in the manner of his intended conduct of U.S. foreign policy. This charge was precipitated by Obama’s stated desire to engage the Iranian government in dialogue without preconditions.

Now, more than nine months into his presidency, the jury is still out as to whether the charges then leveled by the now-Secretary of State will turn out to be credible. But perhaps an even more troubling indictment of the president’s conduct of foreign relations seems to be rapidly gaining legitimacy, not merely among his Republican critics, but from his Democratic allies as well: Mr. Obama is indecisive in his role as Commander-in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Even in the most serene of times, indecisiveness on the part of a president is an undesirable attribute. But when American men and women are fighting two wars in the most difficult of circumstances, it borders on catastrophic for a president to waffle and delay in implementing a policy that is critical not only to the best interests of our troops abroad, but also to the well-being of the nation. Yet that is exactly what appears to be happening.

On May 11, Obama dismissed David McKiernan as commander of American and Allied troops in Afghanistan and replaced him with General Stanley McChrystal. The president stated that he needed “fresh thinking” to turn around the war against a resurgent Taliban. He chose McChrystal, who had earned rave reviews leading the counterinsurgency efforts first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. He instructed McChrystal to submit a written report assessing the current situation in Afghanistan and recommending steps to sustain and solidify America’s war effort.

In his grim assessment, delivered to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates more than two months ago, the general recommended augmenting American Armed Forces by an additional 40,000 troops to stem the tide of recent Taliban gains. His recommendation came with a dire warning: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term (next 12 moths)–while Afghan security capacity matures–risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

Considering America’s stakes in Afghanistan, from which al-Qaeda and its allies hatched their plans for the 9/11 attacks, it would be expected that the president would immediately make plans for going forward in Afghanistan, including the recommendations presented by his handpicked commander, and decide on the proper course of action. Yet that is exactly what Obama appears not to be doing. During the past six weeks, he has had many different meetings with members of his national security team and additional meetings are in the offing. In an appearance at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, he forcefully rebutted those who claimed he has been indecisive, stating that he would never rush to place America’s young men and women into harm’s way. In the meantime, it has been reported that Obama plans to delay any decision until after he returns from his trip to China in late November.

The problem, Mr. President, is that whatever decision you make about implementing General McChrystal’s recommendations is not only long overdue, but also critical to our efforts to defeat a stubborn enemy. Your refusal to be rushed into making a decision could perhaps be viewed as legitimate were there additional facts and considerations that needed to be ascertained, or if the fight against the Taliban was in a state of flux. But neither is the case.

We know exactly what we are up against: a stubborn enemy that persists in using insurgent tactics against our troops. We also know that in the process of engaging the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies, we are propping-up an utterly corrupt and incompetent Afghan government.

But this we have known for many months, if not years, before McChrystal delivered his recommendations. Besides, we have not sent our troops seven thousand miles ashore just to benefit this Afghan government.

This is about defeating an enemy that is determined to reestablish Afghanistan as a terror base from which to threaten democratic nations worldwide, much as it did prior to its ouster from power by the American-led coalition less than three months after 9/11. This war is about us here in America: our security and that of our families.

So, Mr. President, the ball is in your court. You have already unnecessarily delayed making a decision as to what course of action we need to take in your accurately- described “just war.” Remember, it takes between four and five months from the time you decide to add additional troops to when those troops will be on the ground and able to assist in the war effort. For nearly two years, you campaigned to be president and to assume the presidential duties assigned to you by our Constitution, among them the honor of being Commander-in Chief of our Armed Forces. You wanted the job; now you have it. Command.

Nathan Mitzner is a junior risk management insurance major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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