Point of View Columns

Amber Light Warning

In the earliest stages of any driver education course students are taught to heed red lights (stop), green lights (go) and amber lights (caution). The current turmoil on this planet has triggered a series of amber lights flashing over Iraq, the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and many other locations. The cautious approach to this cascade of crises would seem to be the only reasonable course of action to follow. So why is President Obama being chastised, criticized and castigated for being “too cautious”.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a longtime supporter of President Obama, and her comments to the effect that he has been “too cautious” in handling the multiple cauldrons of war and conflict were greeted with much interest. The Teapublicans who represent the permanent critics of Anything Obama pointed to Senator Feinstein’s comments as proof positive that their own criticism is not partisan but reflective of the ineffectiveness of the Obama Administration.

Some further thought on the matter might lead to a different conclusion. After all, there are (too) many American political leaders and commentators who seem to live in some mythical halcyon past when the United States could impose some kind of Pax Americana on the rest of the planet. From the Monroe Doctrine to the Berlin Airlift to the Korean War, there is supposed to have been a time, or so the thinking seems to indicate, when the United States could summon the will to impose peace and send despots scurrying back to their lairs.

Of course the Monroe Doctrine presumed an imperial American perspective on all of the countries in the Americas and one could ask the people of Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic how that has worked out. The Berlin Airlift was absolutely humanitarian in nature and, while it was quite dramatic, the literal and virtual Berlin Wall did not fall for another four decades.

The Korean War is perhaps the best example of what President Obama absolutely should not do. Keep in mind that although the United States led a multilateral military venture against the Chinese and North Koreans, six decades later – a literal lifetime – American troops are still in Korea with no apparent timetable for their eventual departure.

When critics and commentators call for President Obama to “do something” in the multiple potential war zones around the planet they do not seem to think about the consequences, intended and unintended, of such calls for action. Drones and jet planes raining destruction on ISIS may seem to confront this new barbaric and amorphous threat to world peace. But it is that same barbaric and amorphous organization that can terrorize American journalists in the Middle East or morph into terror and danger in London, New York or Paris.

Committing American troops to any of these war zones without a clear strategy and an absolute exit plan and timetable is pure madness. And who will commit the lives and limbs of their son or daughter to this global meat grinder under such circumstances? The silence to this question, if asked in the halls of Congress or on the television talk shows would be deafening. And yet the war chatter continues.

President Obama has been criticized for honestly stating that the United States does not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS – as if there would be some useful strategy in a computer file at the Pentagon or the NSA – that could possibly anticipate the bleak and bizarre nature of this new organization that has temporarily claimed the spotlight on the world stage. It would seem that these critics continue to believe in the mythical omnipotence of America.

While myths have their place in culture, they have no place in the very real and dangerous world in which we all live today. It is better for this country to be “too cautious” rather than drink the mythic Kool-Aid and plunge headlong into the bloody maw of multiple wars across this planet – without a plan, without a strategy and without a clear set of goals and objectives.

President Obama was elected to serve the people of the United States and not to propagate myths and legends that do nothing to help us make informed and intelligent decisions in the volatile atmosphere in the fall of 2014.

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