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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gene Lyons: Obama Is Not Soft On Terrorism — Nor Is He A Sociopath

Gene Lyons: Obama Is Not Soft On Terrorism — Nor Is He A Sociopath

There’s a definite Catch-22 aspect to the presidency. Anybody crazy enough to want the job probably shouldn’t be allowed to have it. That said, anybody who thought Barack Obama was going to deal with terrorists by sending flowers and proposing group therapy is certainly naïve enough to work for the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Sweet reason never works with religious fanatics. When candidate Obama criticized the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals” in 2008, he was mainly talking about torture and Guantanamo. The notorious concentration camp remains open because President Obama ducked a confrontation with congressional Republicans determined to portray him as soft on terror.

Easy on al Qaeda, however, this president is not. See, it turns out that there’s a paradoxical aspect to disengaging from Iraq and Afghanistan too. A recent front-page story in The New York Times about Obama’s personally selecting targets for drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan puts it this way: “war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision.”

Maybe not. But then with the famous exception of Winston Churchill on warning Britain on the eve of Dunkirk that he had “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” politicians’ speeches almost never do.

Based upon interviews with three dozen current and former White House aides, the Times depicts the president as a cool realist who “approves lethal action without hand-wringing,” using his “lawyering skills…to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda—even when it comes to killing an American cleric [Anwar al-Awlaki] in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was ‘an easy one.’”

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