WTF moment at Brookings

June 1, 2011

The Brookings Institute posted a brief article by their young defense analyst Peter W. Singer today that left me scratching my head.  Granted, Singer is a former adviser to the Obama campaign and probably has some blinders regarding his former boss, but the article nonetheless reads like it was posted from Never Never Land.  In his opening sentence, Singer gushes “Barack Obama might ultimately rival Lincoln, JFK and Reagan as among the greatest communicators to hold the office of president.”  That certainly was the hope 3 years ago, but in office Obama has shown a near unerring ability of finding what Walter Russell Mead calls “the Sour Spot” – angering one side without gaining credit from the other.  Less than a week after Mead’s initial post, Obama seemed set to reap much political capital for decisiveness from the Bin Laden raid, only to squander it with a buffoon like communications strategy that one commentator likened to “taking a victory lap in a clown car.”  Next, he alerted the world that he would be making a major speech on the Middle East that was delivered in such a muddled manner that it managed to enrage Palestinians and Israelis alike,   leaving his defenders only the ability to claim that it was not a major policy speech after all, just a pointless and inane recitation of old positions.   It is apparent that, though Obama is a smooth and charming speaker, he is, in fact, a terrible communicator of policy.  In the interim, and despite the Bin Laden victory, Mead has repeated and doubled down on his original conclusion.

Now, Singer is exhorting the President to deliver a major speech addressing defense policy in general and the Obama Doctrine in particular.  The timing for this could not be worse, as what was promised to be a “days not weeks” Libya campaign is well into its 3rd month and is facing growing rumblings of discontent from Congress contemplating its responsibilities and authorities under the War Powers Act.

Clearly, Singer is correct that the nation desperately needs a clear articulation of defense policy.  However, it is far from clear that Obama is either the man or in the position to deliver it.  Defense policy has been conducted on an ad hoc basis for all the current administration (and for much of the previous administration, as well, once Rumsfeld’s visions crashed against the hard rocks of an extended Iraqi occupation).   Too many loose ends (chief among them Libya) have to be wrapped up before a coherent policy can be articulated by the commander in chief.   Until then, perhaps people like Singer can publicly draft and present for discussion aspects of that policy – something which he completely failed to do in this bizarre and pointless article.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: