There’s a kind of balance in the fact that, having been criticised widely criticised for only talking a good game before his election as President, Barack Obama finds himself being criticised whenever he only plays a good game. Despite the relief of Bush being gone, some people seem to have an almost desperate need for American Presidents to be in clear view, striding across the globe and telling us all what’s what. For instance, Clive Crook, FT’s man in Washington comes to this conclusion about Obama’s Libya speech:
Presumably he delayed making the address to underscore the limited nature of the engagement and its goals–and maybe chose not to speak from the Oval Office for the same reason. One way or another, this intervention is a big deal. The timing and venue of the address were mistakes.
While I agree Obama should speak earlier and clearer about many things, mostly that is in regard to domestic issues such as finance and health. Regarding military action, I don’t see the argument that it is wrong to leave the more “local” nations to drive the issue. In which spirit, I left the following comment for Mr Crook:
I feel your consistent theme of, “the substance is correct, the outcome so far is the best we could have hoped for, and in conclusion I really don’t like his style,” does not suit the severity of military action.
It reminds me of those who consistently underestimated China because they tend not to announce they are going to do something even after they know what it is, let alone before. It is easy to forget just how little difference bluster and braggadocio makes in international affairs. Obama’s preference not to indulge the temptation may prove a good thing.
I would agree his communicating could have been better. To focus so heavily on it however seems unwise. It has been the case for some decades that European nations would step up only after American endorsement; we should consider that leaving them to fill a vacuum might indeed have been the best approach. Will America ever be capable of nuanced judgement regarding international military actions, if we insist they blaze a trail, lead from the front, provide the moral leadership, and all the other self-indulgent tropes of the armchair warrior?
I appreciate this is neither what you are doing, nor what you are looking for. Nonetheless, I suspect there would be an important difference in emphasis taking a theme of, “his leadership style leaves something to be desired – but more importantly the substance and the outcomes are so far proving themselves good decisions.”