By Peter Feaver
I am still thinking about President Obama coming to terms with being commander in chief. The roll-out of his decision on Afghan Strategy Review 2.0 will tell us a great deal about whether he is embracing the role or still struggling with it.
After a clumsily run review process, there are finally some hopeful signs in this regard. For starters, he has evidently opted for a high profile roll-out, a prime time Address to the Nation on a day (Tuesday) that will give him maximum attention, rather than throwing a press release over the transom on the margins of Black Friday, as he has done with other difficult presidential decisions. Moreover his team will follow up with long-delayed testimony from General McChrystal, the very person skeptical audiences will want to hear from to validate whether the new strategy has good prospects for success (General Petraeus should also testify and I expect he will). But -- and this is yet another good sign -- the Obama Team also seems to be indicating that they will demand that the other cabinet officials shoulder the load of explaining the war to the American people and to Congress. After nearly 8 months of relative absence, it is high time the administration took seriously its obligation to explain the war and mobilize public and political support for it.
All in all, some hopeful tea leaves. So how will we know whether Obama really is rising to the occasion and embracing his inner
commander in chief?
Here would be some signs that he has embraced the role:
And here would be some signs that he is still struggling:
President Bush was not a perfect communicator in chief when it came to explaining the war on terror. But one thing that I suspect every American, even or perhaps especially those who opposed him, understood: Bush believed that the wars he was leading were worth winning and he was willing to sacrifice the things that were his to sacrifice (things like political and public popularity) so that America could prevail in them. In other words: He embraced his unexpected role as commander in chief and ranked that above his other assignments.
We will soon see if President Obama does, too.
P.S.: I don't care if he uses the word "success" or "victory" or "win" -- those terms are synonymous to me and I don't put much credence in the cottage industry that counts the number of times "victory" is mentioned vice "success" -- there is, however, a profound difference between success/victory and merely "ending the war."
MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images
Shadow Government is a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition and curated by Peter D. Feaver and William Inboden.