Thomas Donnelly of AEI and the Center for Defense studies has a very interesting look in The Weekly Standard at the way that the Obama administration has conducted war. It is well-known by now that President Obama has continued many key Bush administration policies and processes for prosecuting the war on terror, and the description “leading from behind” has been accepted to characterize the Obama administration’s foreign policy approach.
While many of the President’s political and media allies who were so critical of the Bush war policies are now either supportive of or silent about President Obama’s continuation of that war conduct, the results and effects of this President’s war policies are more important than the hypocrisy. Donnelly’s analysis is critical, but fair in my view. One of the most harmful mistakes the administration might be making on war policy is to not articulate what it is doing:
If Bush saw the global war on terror as a way to expand American involvement in the Middle East, Barack Obama’s focus on terror is an attempt to limit it. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen sees this “radical shift from President Bush’s war on terror” and dubs Obama’s way of war the “doctrine of silence.” Cohen rightly argues that “there has seldom been so big a change in approach to U.S. strategic policy with so little explanation.”
The President seems to have recognized that he cannot make some of the grand changes he promised, but he also does not want to publicly promote some of the war policies he has implemented or continued. The administration said little, for example, about how much the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques may have contributed to gathering the intelligence which led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Some have said that because of the controversy of such policies, it is better to not put them in the spotlight. Perhaps that is true to an extent, but as Donnelly concludes, the President is quietly reversing a century-long trend in American strength. That is something worth noticing.