Do you remember when Ronald Reagan became President? I do. I thought it was crazy for an actor to think he could run the country. Boy was I wrong. He did an amazing job in leading us out of a recession. Even today Reagan still gets high scores in poll rankings for Presidential success. How is it that someone with no political training, no legal background and no experience in policy did such a great job? It’s because he knew how to make a plan, stick to the plan and give a compelling message. More important, he knew how to hire great people to get the job done.
Our current President has some of these same qualities. But he lacks the most important ones. He gives great speeches. He’s the kind of person my mother used to say could “sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.” The problem is that his speeches are empty because he has no start-to-finish plan to make them happen. He has no vision except for a few domestic policies that he has rammed down the throats of thousands of Americans who don’t want them and can’t afford them. Let’s face it. His day-to-day operations are driven by his passions, his fears and his ego.
Can the U.S. Survive Obama’s Bungles in Foreign Affairs and Defense?
There’s no place where his inability to stick with the plan is more dangerous than foreign affairs and defense. It’s crucial to stand strong and stay on point. Why? Because the old cliché is true. “A weak leader invites attack.” And we’ve seen it happen in this Administration.
We should have seen this coming. Obama has no training to be a Commander-In-Chief of a military. He’s never served in the armed forces. His work history is limited to domestic policies. Obama worked as an organizer in Chicago helping displaced people build their neighborhoods. He was a Harvard Constitutional Law Professor. He was also an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004. And then Obama became a U.S. Senator, where he served less than one term. All his jobs dealt with domestic issues. None of these jobs prepared him to develop keen strategic planning for warfare.
Obama is not the only president who didn’t serve in the military. Others have come up short in war strategies. But this President has a crucial problem that he hasn’t been able to stop. It’s the biggest mistake of his Presidency. When you hear it, you’ll recognize it. It isn’t something he’s tried to hide. It’s been happening before our very eyes. And it’s worse in defense than any other area.
Obama Keeps Losing Leading Experts from his Team
In the Department of Defense alone, Obama keeps firing or pushing out top military leaders. So far he has had four Defense Secretaries and two Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the DoD website says, “The Secretary of Defense is the principal defense policy adviser to the President.” He must execute approved policy. The Secretary is a member of the President’s Cabinet and of the National Security Council.
It’s a huge job. Second to the President, he’s in charge of defense. Of keeping us safe. Why do I bring it up? I’ll answer it with a question.
What does it say about this President that none of the Secretaries of Defense that he has appointed have lasted more than two years? Take a look at what I learned from the Historical Office of DoD.
- Secretary Robert Gates: January 3, 2009* – July 1, 2011(879 days)
- Leon Panetta: July 1, 2011 – February 26, 2013(609 days)
- Chuck Hagel: February 27, 2013 – February 17, 2015(720 days)
- Ashton Carter: February 17, 2015 – Present
*Gates had previously worked for President George W. Bush. He started on December 18, 2006.
They willingly leave because Obama doesn’t follow their advice. Like Reagan he has hired the best. Unlike the iconic Reagan he forces them out when they tell Obama he’s wrong.
Two former Secretaries are concerned for Americans, they are speaking out.
Secretary Panetta went on CBS “60 minutes” to talk about his frustration. He served as both the Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But he couldn’t get Obama to listen to him. Top advisors including Panetta say that Obama relies on his inner circle political advisors instead of experts. Panetta says he emphasized that we were getting out of Iraq too soon. He told the President the Iraqi government was still too fragile. The Secretary stressed that getting out would invite new terror groups to come in and take over. The President ignored him – and now ISIS is receiving the benefit.
Secretary Gates has similar complaints. In his book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” Gates talks about a point in time when it became clear to him that Obama didn’t understand the rules of engagement. In a meeting, the President criticized Gen. David H. Petraeus. He raised concerns about being involved with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President. Gates said at the moment he knew Obama didn’t believe in his own strategies. He didn’t trust his own leaders. Gates said it became clear to him that Obama just wanted out of the war. He wanted policies that would make that happen. He didn’t want to listen to reason as to why that would be a mistake.
Will the President Be Able to Fix His Broken Defense Department?
The “gene pool” of brilliant military warriors is getting thin. There aren’t many people on the short list. Those who are don’t want to work with the President. His first choice was Michele Flournoy. It’s a great choice. She’s Co-Founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). And she was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for Panetta from 2009-2012. She had the third ranking position of DoD. Flournoy asked the President to be taken off the list. She is one of several that the President had picked but didn’t work out.
Secretary Carter’s skills don’t appear to be what the DoD needs. His tenure has been in tech and budget. Not military warfare or policy. But he is part of Obama’s inner circle. He may survive to the end of the President’s term. It is doubtful that he can rise to the challenge of providing solid strategies for U.S. Defense.
Military War College & Warfare Experts Are Fearful that Obama Policies Put U.S. at Risk
The President’s recent shift is to use covert operations and abandon traditional warfare. I’ve already shared with you how Obama has chased out the best-of-the-best military strategists. They’ve broken their silence because it’s so important to “turn this ship around.” But they’re not alone.
The U.S. Army War College and the 21st Century Defense Initiative of the Brookings Institution brought in experts multiple times in their “Future Defense Dilemmas” seminar series. This partnership between the U.S. Army and Brookings opened a door for experts in every aspect of military operations to assess the strength of the Administration’s defense policies. Perhaps it will give this Administration the clear goals and directives on what direction to take. Monitored by Ralph Wipfli and Dr. Steven Metz, the various panels gave valuable feedback. They revealed major problems that the President is facing. The extensive coverage said:
- The Administration has no workable strategy – it needs to define its goals and unwavering details on how to carry them out that can be translated to the rank-and-file
- President Obama must stop worrying about “boots on the ground,” and instead ensure that counterinsurgency operations have enough personnel to do all the necessary work
The President Gets His Military Planning from Hollywood
When I first started covering defense under President Obama, all I heard about were “special ops.” I was thinking CIA, Homeland Security and Guantanamo Bay. The President feeds into this by emphasizing his focus on small “special ops.”
President Obama is attempting to replace almost all military operations with special operations and drone strikes. Special operations might make for exciting Hollywood movies, but they are not a viable replacement for an actual military. In reality, the augment it.
A Glimmer of Hope Shining Through
Military leaders and warfare experts are pushing Washington in the right directions. At a recent summit I attended in D.C., former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen talked about how to defense back on track.
At the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Summit Mullen expressed concern about how the President avoids sending in troops even when it is needed. Obama thinks that drones and remote weaponry is a replacement for our military.
Mullen says our allies worry whether we’ll be there for them. “I am concerned that we’ll continue to disengage,” he said. “I worry how light is light. How comfortable is remote?” He then explained, “I’m a Navy guy. I grew up being out there my whole life. I think the engagement piece, the presence piece, the being there makes a huge difference.” He reminds us that “it’s a tough world out there, and we need to be there.”
Mullen thinks there’s a serious snag in the President’s aim to rely on allies and war zone states. He says those who want to help don’t have the assets. He noted that in Libya there was a good start, but allies ran out of munitions and other assets. “There’s a delivery issue,” he concluded.
Mullen along with other experts believe that trade agreements are imperative for our economy and our defense. “The 21th century is the century for the Asian Pacific Rim,” he emphasized. He noted that three of the biggest economies are there. But the Admiral cautioned that we need to be “very diligent” and balance our efforts on several fronts to succeed.