Obama on national security: too weak, too strong

President Barack Obama (Source: White House)

President Barack Obama (Source: White House)

One of the weird muddles complicating the scandals swirling around the Obama administration is that the accusations –broadly speaking — stem from two fundamentally different convictions about the White House and its stance on national security and the war on terror.

On the one side is a conservative narrative about Benghazi that goes something like this:

When US forces were under attack in Libya, Obama was tuned out, overly passive, and ineffective.

His team failed to use all the resources available to try to prevent the death of American personnel on the ground.  The result?  Four people dead.

In the days afterward, so goes the storyline, Obama’s team downplayed or tried to conceal the fact that an act of full-blown terrorism had occurred, giving incomplete and inconsistent answers to the public and Congress.

This picture takes on its gravest connotations when you fold it into the wider right-wing narrative about Obama, that he is a Muslim sympathizer – perhaps even a closet Muslim – who has weakened America, perhaps deliberately.

On the other side is a liberal narrative about drone attacks, Guantanamo Bay, the killing of American citizens, and the AP-Justice Department probe that goes something like this:

Team Obama has internalized too many Bush-era ideas about the war on terror.

He has acted far too aggressively and unilaterally, using military force with abandon, failing to shut down Gitmo, and compromising first amendment rights by investigating journalists who publish national security secrets.

According to this storyline, Obama moved to wrap the imperial-presidency-smoking-gun foreign policy agenda of the Bush-Cheney era in a kinder, gentler Democratic Party veneer.

The results?  A lot of hellfire missiles raining down on peasant villages in Pakistan and guys in orange jumpsuits on hunger strike at Gitmo.

One can see why this might be fraught political territory for a Democratic president. There is little hope of winning over conservatives by being tough.  There is a great danger of alienating liberals by appearing too militaristic.

But so far at least, the public seems to feel relatively comfortable with the idea that in a messy, dangerous world, Obama’s team is getting it more right than wrong. His poll numbers are holding steady.

And despite high profile attacks like the one in Boston, the number of people dying in the global terror conflict — including attacks here in the US, as well as fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq — continues to decline.

So here’s my question to you.  As you think about the big picture, Americas national security in Barack Obama’s second term, and the current rash of scandals, what do you see as the fundamentals?

Is the president getting the porridge too hot, too cold, or just right when it comes to foreign policy and keeping America safe?  Comments welcome below. Also, check out President Obama’s national security address from this week.

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8 Comments on “Obama on national security: too weak, too strong”

  1. Jim Bullard says:

    He displeases both extremes because he is rational rather than leaping to knee-jerk reactions. Somehow reason is suspect to a surprising number of Americans. He’s done some things I wouldn’t have and not some that I would have but he’s been right enough that things are getting better, despite the rhetoric of the right FAR BETTER, than they were when he took office so I’m satisfied with his performance. Not ideal but way better than his predecessor.

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  2. Two Cents says:

    displeasing both extremes puts one exactly in what I would define as the middle.
    middle always connotes as fair to me…

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    I find myself not being upset over any of the above issues.
    I’ll give Guantanamo Bay as an example. I would prefer us closing it and moving all of our troops and stuff out. Unlock the gates and let the prisoners become Cuba’s problem. We shouldn’t be there and we should resume relations with Cuba in the same way we have relations with China.
    Drones? A weapon is a weapon and drones are just another weapon. And what pray tell is the difference between an American terrorist and a foreign terrorist? You want to play with guns and bombs, you just might get killed by guns or bombs.
    The IRS? Everyone should pay taxes – no exceptions. If any person or organization is taking in money, it should pay on what it takes in. Stop all these not paying taxes exceptions.
    The AP? What is the difference between Wikileaks and the AP? Leaks are leaks. We need to decide if leaks are okay or not.
    Do I feel safe? I feel about as safe up here as I do in NYC, which for the most part is very safe.

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  4. JDM says:

    In short, the President is an incompetent leader who was schooled in leftist ideologies.

    The worst of both worlds.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  5. JDM says:

    (I realize that I now run a greater risk of being audited by the IRS)

    #bananarepublic #chicagothuggery

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  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    JDM,
    I’ve been audited and guess what? They said I was owed a bigger return than I claimed! In fact, I thought I owed money and they found I was due money. If you’re not a crook what is the big deal with an audit? It’s like jury duty, yeah it’s a pain in the butt, but it could be worse.

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  7. mervel says:

    Foreign affairs has been his strong suite as far as I am concerned. I am bothered by the lack of oversight to the drone attacks, however they are also effective.

    If you think about it he has followed his plan, he has attacked al-quida including of course Osama Bin Laden, he has not gotten us into any more regional wars and has ended one war and hopefully will end the other next year.

    I think those are solid accomplishments.

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  8. mervel says:

    As far as Gautanimo, put these guys through military tribunals, sentence them as enemy soldiers and put them in federal prison or let them go.

    At this point we can’t run them through civilian courts as we probably couldn’t convict even one of them due to lack of evidence and their previous denial of due process.

    Politically I think he is stuck as he knows that if he has to start letting these guys go he will get a lot of flack.

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