American Elephants

Uncertainty, Indecision, Naivety, Doubt, Worry, Maybe… by The Elephant's Child


This painting by San Francisco artist Ed Ruscha is one selected by President Obama to be loaned to the White House.  It would seem to indicate some level of self-awareness on the part of Mr. Obama of characteristic indecision.  The world is  taking notice of Obama’s dithering regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, and worrying.

The word “dithering” has gained a spot in current vocabulary that it has never previously occupied.  In a campaign speech on September 9,2008, Obama said:

His plan comes up short. There’s not enough troops, not enough resources and not enough urgency. What President Bush and Senator McCain don’t understand is that the central front in the War on Terror is not in Iraq and never was. The central front is in Afghanistan and Pakistan where the terrorists who hit us on 9-11 are still plotting attacks seven years later.

On March 27, according to Charles Krauthammer, with his secretaries of state and defense at his side, the President said “Today I’m announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He made it clear that he had not arrived at the decision casually.  The new strategy, he said, “marks the conclusion of a careful policy review.” The conclusion of an extensive review, the president assured the nation , that included consultation with military commanders and diplomats, with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with our NATO allies and members of Congress.

Dr. Krauthammer continued: “The general in charge was then relieved and replaced with Obama’s own choice, Stanley McChrystal.”

On August 30, Obama’s handpicked general submitted a request for 40,000 more troops which he said were necessary for the counterinsurgency strategy the president wanted, and to avoid losing to the Taliban.

General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, General Zinni, and Ike Skelton (chair, House Armed Services), Diane  Feinstein (chair Senate Intel) agreed.  Six weeks later, Obama is still dithering.  Rahm Emanuel was on the Sunday shows using the uncertainty in Afghan elections as the latest excuse.  Robert Kaplan wrote in the Atlantic:

The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets.  Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban — even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama’s public agonizing.  Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. …This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama’s wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians.  India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India’s geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with Bush, Obama’s dithering is making it nervous.  And Iran in observing Washington’s indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.

At the White House, the dithering goes on.  The meetings are now referred to as “seminars”, but strategic decisions seem to be left, not to the world’s best generals, but, of course, to the president and Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden and David Axlerod.

As the painting says: I THINK MAYBE I’LL…MAYBE…YES…
xxxxxxxwait a minute…
xxxxxxxxxxxxx On Second Thought…
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx MAYBE NO..

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