Obama’s Military Judgment

Although a Democrat, I have no intention of voting for Sen. Barack Obama in November. My primary objection has to do with his position on abortion, an extreme leftwing position. Not only does he have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record in the U.S. Senate, but when he was in the Illinois Senate he voted against requiring that medical care be given to infants who survive an abortion. More, he promised Planned Parenthood that as president he would sign a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would enact into federal statutory law all the abortion “rights” currently provided by Roe v. Wade — just in case the Supreme Court happens to overturn Roe. This latter, of course, would be an unlikely eventuality, since Obama has also vowed to appoint only pro-Roe justices to the Court. You can’t get much more pro-choice (or pro-abortion, the same thing) than Senator Obama.
But my secondary objection is that Obama — who, if elected, would be the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military machine in the history of the human race — has very poor judgment when it comes to military affairs.
I don’t say he has poor judgment generally. Far from it. His political judgment, for instance, is superb — as indeed it had to be to defeat his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama understood even better than Hillary and Bill (of whom we used to think that no one was politically more clever) that it is impossible to win the Democratic nomination nowadays unless you have three credentials: (1) you have to be solidly pro-abortion; (2) you have to be solidly anti-racist; and (3) you have to be a near-pacifist when it comes to military matters.
With regard to these three points: (1) Although Hillary is solidly pro-abortion, she made the mistake of uttering from time to time words of sympathy for persons holding pro-life views. (2) In one of the most hard-to-believe developments of the campaign, the Obama people made the utterly preposterous suggestion — and got away with it — that Bill Clinton is something of a racist. (3) Obama endlessly touted the superiority of his “judgment” over Hillary’s by pointing out that, while she voted in the Senate to authorize the war in Iraq, he was opposed to it from the beginning.
This brings me back to the question of Obama’s military judgment. The proof of this, he says, is that he was against the Iraq war from the time he made a speech against it in 2002 (when he was still a state senator). Now, even if we grant (if only for the sake of argument) that the war was a mistake, one’s having been opposed to it isn’t necessarily a sign of good judgment. It may simply be evidence of a lucky call. The man who bets on a 100-to-1 horse at the track because he happens to like the horse’s name cannot claim good judgment when the horse wins. The man was just lucky. Or maybe some heavenly power provided him with the gift of clairvoyance.
But who actually had the better judgment, Hillary (and Sen. John McCain, who also voted to authorize the war) or Barack Obama? If judgments ought to be conclusions based on a study of the facts of the case, then Hillary’s judgment was better. She studied the facts (or at least what everybody at the time believed to be the facts), and she concluded that Saddam’s Iraq was a serious and more or less imminent threat to American interests. Obama’s anti-war judgment was based not so much on facts as on the anti-war ideology of the Democratic Party’s left wing.
And then there’s the question of the “surge” that President Bush ordered in 2007. Obama, again basing his judgment on the semi-pacifist ideology of the Democratic Left, pronounced that the surge was sure to fail — but it didn’t. A second case of bad military judgment.
Finally, the third and most egregious case of military bad judgment. For well over a year, Obama (along with many of other Democrats, Hillary included) has been arguing that a withdrawal of American combat troops will force the various power groups in Iraq — the Shias, the Sunnis, the Kurds, and subgroups of these main groups — to cooperate and get their house in order. This is at best a very dubious psychological judgment, but I’ll waive that point. When asked what he would do if, American combat troops having been withdrawn, the Iraqi factions don’t work out their differences and Iraq degenerates into civil war or genocide, Obama has at times offered this scenario: After we withdraw our combat troops, we’ll keep them stationed nearby (just beyond the horizon, so to speak), and if things break down in Iraq we’ll send them back to restore order.
To offer a plan like that you have to be either very stupid or very insincere. Is there anybody in his right mind who believes that the president of the United States — whether that person be Bush or Obama or McCain or Hillary or Donald Duck — will re-send American troops into Iraq once they have been withdrawn? The notion is utterly absurd.
Obama isn’t stupid. And so, given the disjunction offered above, he must be insincere. He is bound by the anti-war ideology of the Democratic Left, according to which the United States must get out of Iraq regardless of consequences; and if embarrassing questions arise, just cook up an answer that will fool some of the people some of the time.
It can be argued, I suppose, that it was a mistake in the first place for us Americans to create the world’s greatest military machine. But to create that machine and then place it in the hands of a man who is in thrall to an anti-military, semi-pacifist ideology that causes him to make one bad military judgment after another — that way lies madness.


  • David R. Carlin Jr.

    David R. Carlin Jr. is a politician and sociologist who served as a Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate. His books include “Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion” and “The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.” Carlin is a current professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport.

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