Often times we hear that we’re too close to something to be able to be objective enough to evaluate it rationally. Now before I go much further, lets make sure that we all know who I’m speaking of.
I’m not talking about our main stream media, MSNBC, CNN or the plethora of far left websites, such as DailyKOS, HuffPo, etc… No, I’m talking about those that are closer to the center of the political spectrum. The folks that possibly bought into Hope & Change in ’08 and maybe sat home in ’12.
Back in ’08, candidate Obama sounded pretty centrist. He certainly talked a good game, and sounded to the run of the mill voter, or as Rush says, the low information voter, like he was the breath of fresh air they were looking for. Somebody who was charismatic enough to get people together and smart enough to surround himself with good advisers.
Unfortunately, we all know that was just smoke and mirrors by a narcissitic, America-loathing, socialist (I’m being generous on that label, btw) intent on residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, there are still folks out there who just can’t see the real Obama.
Enter Sir Hew Strachan, a prominent war historian and his credentials are, to say the least, impressive.
He is Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford. He was Professor of Modern History at the University of Glasgow from 1992 to 2000. Additionally, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Historical Society. He holds an honorary D.Univ from the University of Paisley. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Tweeddale in 2006. He is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies. In addition, he is on the Chief of the Defence Staff’s strategic advisory panel, the UK Defence Academy Advisory Board, and is an advisory fellow of the Barsanti Military History Center at the University of North Texas. He was on the council of the National Army Museum and is currently a trustee of the Imperial War Museum. He is a visiting professor of the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy in Trondheim and in 2009 was the Sir Howard Kippenberger Professor at Victoria University Wellington.
So to say that he knows military strategy is quite the understatement.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, he said that President Obama’s strategic failures in Afghanistan and Syria have crippled America’s position on the world stage.
Sir Hew Strachan, an advisor to the Chief of the Defense Staff, told The Daily Beast that the United States and Britain were guilty of total strategic failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama’s attempts to intervene on behalf of the Syrian rebels “has left them in a far worse position than they were before.”
The extraordinary critique by a leading advisor to the United States’ closest military ally comes days after Obama was undermined by the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who questioned the President’s foreign policy decisions and claimed he was deeply suspicious of the military.
He went on to say that Obama is “chronically incapable” of military strategy and falls far short of George W. Bush in that area. Strachan also cited President Obama’s “crazy” handling (or bumbling) of the Syrian crisis as the most egregious example of a fundamental collapse in military strategy and planning since 9/11.
“If anything it’s gone backwards instead of forwards, Obama seems to be almost chronically incapable of doing this. Bush may have had totally fanciful political objectives in terms of trying to fight a global War on Terror, which was inherently astrategic, but at least he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do in the world. Obama has no sense of what he wants to do in the world,” he said.
Strachan also spoke of President Obama’s “dithering” over intervention against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, saying it has empowered the Syrian ruler and simultaneously undermined America’s military reputation while destabilizing the Middle East.
“What he’s done in talking about Red Lines in relation to Syria has actually devalued the deterrent effect of American military capability and it seems to me that creates an unstable situation, because if he were act it would surprise everybody,” he said. “I think the other issue is that in starting and stopping with Assad, he’s left those who might be his natural allies in Syria with nowhere to go. He’s increased the likelihood that if there is a change of regime in Syria that it will be an Islamic fundamentalist one.”
Sir Strachan has a book coming out next month which examines the failure of modern politicians to use strategy to determine the proper course of military action. He states that the lessons learned at the end of the 20th century hurt us going into the 21st century.
“Using war did deliver. The wars were pretty short, the Falklands, First Gulf War, Kosovo, so people lulled themselves into an expectation that war was simply a continuation of policy and that it was successful. But it hasn’t been since 9/11,” he said.
But Strachan says that a good start at fixing this problem would be to allow military leaders to speak their minds. He was critical of how General McChrystal was forced to resign after that Rolling Stone interview, which revealed his and his staff’s comments about the politicians who were their bosses.
“The concern about the military speaking out shows a lack of democratic and political maturity. We’re not facing the danger of a military coup. The professional experts, who deal with war all the time, should be able to express their views all the time, openly and coherently, just as you would expect a doctor or a teacher to express their views coherently about how you run medical policy or teaching policy,” he said.
In fact, he can point to precedent on this. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill held daily strategy meeting with his chairman of the Chiefs of Staff back in World War II.
“The Churchill-Allan Brooke relationship was fraught at times but it worked because both were pretty frank with each other,” Strachan said. “Soldiers have a duty here as well—if they just say, ‘yes Mr. Prime Minister or Mr. President, we can give you exactly what you want,’ then they’re probably not being very honest.”
Now I know this isn’t any groundbreaking news to those of us who have delved into Obama’s past and had him pegged for a radical since way back in 2007. But the fact remains that it is heartening to hear somebody on the world stage who is forthright enough to be honestly critical of our president.