Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some Progress

Smartypants raises a central question in her blog this morning:

From the beginning, one of the questions I've had is whether or not America is ready for the kind of leadership President Obama would provide. Are we ready to explore the power of partnership rather than simply rely on dominance? I suspect that is the experiment we're seeing unfold. As Michelle Obama said about her husband years ago:
Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.

This blogpost was written in response to Politico's big piece yesterday "What's Wrong with Obama?", where authors John Harris and Todd Purdum hammer Obama for just about everything, but especially this:

This president lately has faced situations that cried out for a black-and-white sense of purpose, and unquestioned public command.

And then they hasten to point out how completely the President's circuitous, confusing route to a plan failed to deliver on this public need for black and white analysis and purpose. So the answer to Smartypants' question, "Is America ready for Obama," is clearly No. We have an integral leader in a non-integral culture. They can't see this man to understand how he sees the world, how he makes decisions, how he deals with uncertainty, or even how he acts.

But the dispassionate amongst us can see results. And David Ignatius, a highly respected international journalist for the Washington Post, is one of those balanced observers. This morning, in his post "Puzzled by a Panic", he writes the following:

What's puzzling about this latest Obama-phobia is that recent developments in Syria have generally been positive from the standpoint of U.S. interests. Obama has accomplished goals that most Americans endorse, given the unpalatable menu of choices.

Polls suggest that the public overwhelmingly backs the course Obama has chosen. Asked in a Washington Post-ABC News survey if they endorsed the U.S.-Russian plan to dismantle Syrian chemical weapons as an alternative to missile strikes, 79 percent were supportive. Yet elite opinion is sharply negative.

His analysis goes on to point out:
  • Russia has been drawn into a process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons, a goal of US policy for two years.
  • The US and Russia have renewed their push for peace negotiations in Geneva.
  • We have begun training and arming Gen. Salim Idriss' militia, in large part to counter the Al Qaeda fighters, and Ignatius reports that this is making a difference.
Ignatius concludes:

The mystery is why this outcome in Syria is derided by so many analysts in Washington. Partly, it must be the John McCain factor. The Arizona senator is in danger of becoming a kind of Republican version of Jesse Jackson, who shows up at every international crisis with his own plan for a solution, sometimes through personal mediation (as with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt), other times demanding military intervention (as in Syria). Because McCain is a distinguished figure, he commands respect, even when his proposals have no political support at home.

Not so, Obama. He can propose what the country wants, and succeed at it, and still get hammered as a failure. 

Still, it is progress when a distinguished reporter notices and reports that results are coming in that line up well with American interests, that our Syria policy is succeeding.

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