by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

Contrary to all the criticism from the righteous right, President Barack Obama was a perfectly logical choice to receive the Nobel Peace Price. He talks incessantly about peace which appears to be the prime qualification. He pursues an apparently endless policy of engagement as have many previous recipients who have been honored more for what they have talked about than for what they have actually accomplished.

Everyone wants peace but at what price? Neville Chamberlain wanted peace, also. If endless engagement and outreach to adversaries like Iran simply provide more time for them to develop nuclear weapons, then those peace efforts, however popular, noble and well intended, will have failed.

The president has my heartiest congratulations on winning the peace prize but I hope that he doesn’t take it too seriously. Such notables as Jimmy Carter and Yasir Arafat also won Nobel Peace Prizes. I especially hope that he doesn’t feel compelled to prove worthy of the prize by seeking to buy peace at any price. That may work for Norway but not for the world’s remaining democratic superpower.

The peace president has some critical decisions to make and we’ve been saying that time is running out for so long that it probably already has. The most critical of these is what to do about Iran besides talking about sanctions that neither China nor Russia will agree to. This is the most critical issue because when Iran acquires nukes it will drastically altar the power relationships in the Middle East, accelerate an arms race, increase nuclear proliferation and reduce our leverage in the region. With this situation deteriorating as it is, it is madness for the president to be pursuing ratification of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty that would have no effect on rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.

Of almost equal urgency is the long-awaited decision on Afghanistan. The president has clearly gone wobbly on the “real” war. The mere fact that he is waffling on his original commitment is sending a message to friend and foe, to wit: you cannot count on a long term American military commitment after public opinion polls turn against it. The commander he appointed to carry out his view of the mission in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McCrystal, has requested more troops and has outlined, in stark terms, the consequences of not having enough. Weeks have passed and Mr. Obama, as of this writing, is still dithering.

With all due respect, a commander-in-chief must be more nimble in the decision-making process, a prime leadership attribute. This decision should have been made long ago, before we committed troops and asked other nations to join in. And once a commitment is made we must resolve to win, not vacillate in the face of declining public opinion polls. Public opinion polls should not determine wartime strategy.

The mainstream press and administration supporters have largely applauded this careful, prolonged reconsideration of our mission in Afghanistan. But what, really, has changed to warrant such agonizing except that it is now clear that we cannot execute the current mission successfully without more troops. The president says that he wants to be assured of a reliable partner in Kabul. Good luck with that one. We knew the government was corrupt when we made this commitment. Whether Hamid Karzai stays or goes probably won’t change that much

The effort to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a permanent base for al Qaeda cannot be accomplished on the cheap. If the president compromises on the troop numbers requested in an attempt to satisfy everyone, he risks losing everything and wasting all the precious lives already sacrificed in this conflict.

The president’s advisors have urged critics to give him time and space to get this critical decision right. He’s had time. It’s decision time. It will take many months to get any additional troops in place. And as previously noted, this isn’t the only crisis on his plate calling for decisions. As he himself famously said during his campaign, a president has to deal with more than one crisis at a time. CRO

copyright 2009 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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