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Obama Ducks a Cutlass

I see an emerging consensus about the political impact of the military operation that successfully freed an American ship captain held hostage off the coast of Somalia yesterday.

At best, it's a small but significant victory for President Obama, who apparently was actively involved in monitoring the situation and coolly authorized the use of force. But had things gone the other way, it would have been an enormous PR disaster from which Obama would have had a hard time recovering.

How it is possible that the same incident can have such a small upside, and such a huge downside? That's a lot to be riding on the twitch of a Navy SEAL's finger.

But I think it's an accurate reflection of the state of our political discourse -- one no longer dominated by the right-wing message machine, but still vulnerable to hyperventilation about things that are, in the greater scheme of things, relatively trivial.

Seen from the White House, this was definitely a good moment for Obama. Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "President Barack Obama's 'no drama' handling of the Indian Ocean hostage crisis proved a big win for his administration in its first critical national security test.

"Obama's quiet backstage decision to authorize the Defense Department to take necessary action if Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger gave a Navy commander the go-ahead to order snipers to fire on the pirates holding the cargo ship captain at gunpoint....

"Obama's handling of the crisis showed a president who was comfortable in relying on the U.S. military, much as his predecessor, George W. Bush, did.

"But it also showed a new commander in chief who was willing to use all the tools at his disposal, bringing in federal law enforcement officials to handle the judicial elements of the crisis."

But as Joe Klein blogs for Time: "One can easily imagine all the different ways the rescue of Captain Phillips might have been screwed up--and the political firestorm that would have resulted....

"[I]t could easily have gone wrong, through no fault of the President and the SEALs--a gust of wind, whatever...and then the Administration would have had to waste all sorts of energy on damage control, fending off the second-guessers--Republicans and, all too often, people like me--and perhaps overreacting to the pirate 'threat' as a result. Presidencies are, sadly, built or crippled on such quirks of fate."

Michael D. Shear writes in The Washington Post that the incident posed "political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public."

The result "left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad," Shear writes. But: "The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama's adversaries are unlikely to be mollified by his performance in a four-day hostage drama."

Chris Cillizza writes for The Washington Post: "It's a public relations disaster dodged -- one of many Obama will have to avoid as he seeks to retain political momentum and keep his agenda on track."

Former Bush White House official Peter Feaver asks in his Washington Post discussion group: "Now what? What steps will Obama's national security team take to deal with the pirate problem? No serious observer believes that this single tactical victory -- as impressive and desirable as it was -- makes more than a slight dent in the bigger pirate problem. In the narrowest of terms, it may even increase the short-term risk to the other international hostages held by Somali pirates."

And Kevin Drum blogs for Mother Jones that, while giving Obama a lot of credit for the rescue is a bit ridiculous, "[t]he right-wing criticism of Obama during the incident had gotten so over-the-top that you'd have thought Obama was about ready to invite the Somali pirates over for tea. That was ridiculous. So if this shuts them up for a few moments, it will be a well-deserved few moments of silence for Obama."

Lara Jakes and Pauline Jelinek write for the Associated Press this morning: "President Barack pledged Monday that the U.S. would seek to halt the increasing threat of piracy off the Horn of Africa.

"Obama also praised the military's successful efforts to rescue merchant Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held hostage there for several days by pirates.

"'His safety has been our principle concern,' the president said in his first remarks in public on the five-day standoff that ended Sunday with Phillips' release....

"In a sharp warning to increasingly brazen pirates operating off the coast of lawless Somalia, Obama said: 'I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks.'

"'We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise, and we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes,' the president said."

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 13, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

We need for a UN or NGO group to go in and negotiate a consensus government and provide money and training in forming a government and police.

Posted by: dickdata | April 13, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I am very thankful that the Captain was rescued. There were 4 possible outcomes;

A) What happened, Captain saved, pirates dead or captured.

B) Captain dies, pirates dead or captured

C) Captain saved, pirates escape justice.

D) Captain dies or taken away while the pirates escape justice.

Obviously A is the best outcome. But if B occured, I believe that there would be minimal political backlash towards Obama. If C, then there would be some soul-searching and some minimal recriminations. If D occurred, it would have been damaging to Obama's political standing.

As for sub-options for A; 3 dead and one young one captured is about as good as it gets.

When these operations stop yielding big money, there won't be the numbers involved.

Posted by: cyberfool | April 13, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Did Bush ignore the Somali pirates because they were motivated by profits, not prophets? He ran around like a madman, waving his hands in the air, screaming about how Americans were not sufficiently scared by "Islamofascists" as the pirates began hijacking oil tankers and merchant ships, creating a real threat to international trade.

Posted by: motorfriend | April 13, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"But I think it's an accurate reflection of the state of our political discourse -- one no longer dominated by the right-wing message machine"

LOL When did this happen?

As Froomkin's hyper-partisan exemplifies, the left-wing message machine has owned the dialogue for years.

Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"Did Bush ignore the Somali pirates because they were motivated by profits, not prophets?"

Bush did nothing of the sort. That's like asking "why did Clinton ignore Islamic terrorists"? The truth is that Obama was faced with the issue in a more substantial way than Bush was, and like terrorism, we have a tendency to wait until a crisis to address a problem.

Besides Bush had a specific plan. You can read this article, titled "Bush Administration Had Issued Plan for Pirates in December" here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123931064271506281.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The upside/downside dilemma is what comes with job, and the expectation of the American people in this instance was pretty high. On the other hand, the US has some of the best special ops teams in the world, and the pirates made some very stupid mistakes.

Obama and the Navy also had time on their side, which worked to their advantage, now, the question is, what happens next? Certainly American flagged vessels and crew will become targets; it's time to require the shipping companies to fortify their ships, or, agree to convoys in this particular area.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | April 13, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh Bobmoses, a couple of factoids that might interest you. You do realize that the Clinton administration had more real convictions of people who actually blew things up than Bush had right? And you do know that the Clinton administration handed the Bush administration a strategic plan for rolling back Al-Qaida (with no war against Iraq planned)when Clinton left office…right? And you do know that the Bush administration did nothing with this plan…right? Oh except to pretty much use it and claim it as their own after 9/11 occurred.

Also you do realize that Somali pirates have been hijacking ships around the horn of Africa for years now. These hijackings did not start last week, as FOX and the right suggest (or so my right wing friends tell me, they had not heard of any pirate hijackings till last week) So given that the hijackings have been occurring for years, are you not a bit disappointed in your god figure Bush for not having anything until a month before he left office? Seems like he dropped the ball on that one…again.

Of course it is probably simpler for you to keep hating and criticizing Obama than it would be for you to admit the obvious, that Bush screwed up and ignored a problem (actually picj any problem) until his sucessor could take it off his hands.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 13, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Put in the proper context, this event was really no more than the average LA hostage drama (though of course the latent, or secondary, implications might be greater).

But it's the abilty to recognize and counter those latent implications that will define Obama's presidency, in the end.

If we want our country to truly succeed this is what we have to understand, the higher comprehension bypassing the toothless, and apparently brainless, right wingnut.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 13, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Bob to say that Clinton ignored Islamic terrorists is to be willingly ignorant of reality. They handled terrosism differently than Bush did. Bush used the military, got us involved in a war of choice, drove up the deficit in order to get what exactly? The main thing Bush got was to further inflame a region against the US. You and your ilk look on military solutions (and yes I was in the military) as the only real way to deal with things. Kill them, blow them up, show that you are strong (a major notion for Dirty Dick and the PNAC VERY MAJOR), don’t lose face etc… You could see it this weekend with the right wing blowhards talking about how this makes us look weak and indecisive etc… But what has your/Bush method gotten us? If the authorities are to be believed there are far more terrorists today than there were eight years ago, that much is certain. But other than macho posturing and knowing that we can kill more efficiently, that we can make bigger explosions, that we can kill “Islamic terrorists” or “Islamo Fascists” anywhere in the world that we want. It makes us feel good because we can. But more and more it reminds me of Vietnam where no matter who was killed they were VC. No matter who we kill now they are a terrorist of some sort and more likely than not a #2 leader of AQ. Short story, just like with the economy, your methods did not work and something new needs to be tried.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 13, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"But I think it's an accurate reflection of the state of our political discourse -- one no longer dominated by the right-wing message machine"
LOL When did this happen?
As Froomkin's hyper-partisan exemplifies, the left-wing message machine has owned the dialogue for years.
Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

///

LOL…good thing the right-wing message machine has you walking the beat, bob. Tell us all again how “Me Froomkin, Me Hate Bush.” That was a classic.

Posted by: Attucks | April 13, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

It's good to have a President who just does his job, competently and calmly, and doesn't reward Freedom Medals to War Criminals.

But a shame how many unpatriotic slime there are in the Republicant party.

Posted by: WillSeattle | April 13, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Credit to you, Froomie, for this thread, because it is an important one. One slip by the navy and we would have been reading in the WaPo (editorial page, Krauthammer, Gerson) all about how Obama is clearly unfit for commander in chief, how we would be better off with the Boy King again for all his spendy ways. President Carter's name would be on airports if it weren't for the failure of his hostage mission. Instead the airports are named after Reagan who traded arms to the same terrorists Carter was trying to defeat. The right-wing broadcast machine is all wound up ready for their preposterous "gays in the military" moment, hoping only to take eight points off Obama's ratings. But this one got away. I bet the news of the rescue gave a lot of wingnuts indigestion.

Posted by: gposner | April 13, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

All the right wing talking heads were using the same buzz words this weekend, indecisive, makes us look weak, the French looked better than we did etc… Well unfortunately for them they got what they said they wanted, though in reality I fully believe they were hoping for a desert one on the ocean. However I can see in two or three years time, if the pirate issue becomes as chronic as AQ and we lose a few people here and there, these same people who were criticizing the administration this weekend will still be criticizing them and using the manner of this weekend’s rescue as their talking point for how things went wrong. I’ll venture to say that they will say the response was not strong enough (as if we should go into Somalia and devastate whole cities, when we have the actual perpetrators right there), though I could easily see them also taking the idea that we provoked. Regardless of the outcome and regardless of how the future plays out, this event, like any and every event Obama is involved with will be a no-win situation with the right wing.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 13, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

....political discourse dominated by the right-wing message machine?......Wanting to be taken seriously, Froomkin, you would have us believe you work for the Clamath Falls Daily Oregonian? You are a piece of work, but hey, Keep it up! You're on-line and playin' with the "machine" boys now! Hot Damn!

Posted by: chatard | April 13, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"Lara Jakes and Pauline Jelinek write for the Associated Press this morning: "President Barack pledged..."

President Barack?! WTF?!?! Since when are reporters on a first name basis with the President of the United States?! It's President Obama. I don't recall seeing any stories in the last 10+ years about "President Bill" or "President George".

I sincerely hope that was a typo of some sort.

Posted by: MrInternational | April 13, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Amen, McMahon.

Posted by: ctnickel | April 13, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

If Bush had still been president when the pirates were killed...

Bush would fly by helicopter onto the deck of the ship dressed as a SEAL and posed with a sniper rifle.

"Mission Accomplished" banner flown over the ship.

Rag-tag pirates would be renamed "turro-rists."

GOP in congress would rename "Pirates of the Carribean" ride at Disney to "Freedom Fries of the Carribean."

US would invade Venezuela due to their connections with Somali pirates, who hate us for our freedom.


Posted by: outragex | April 13, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I find the comment "one no longer dominated by the right-wing message machine" very ironic since the right-wing message machine has been replaced by the (far) left-wing message machine of which Mr. Froomkin is a significant contributor.

Posted by: jmanarin | April 13, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon:

Your knee-jerk response demonstrates how your mindless partisanship impairs your ability to read, let alone reason.

I wasn't criticizing Clinton at all. In fact, I was calling criticism of him regarding terrorism absurd. Go back and read what I said, if you are capable of reading a whole post that is. I voted for Clinton twice and think he was a good President.

Despite your ignorant bleating, I don't hate Obama. I don't even dislike him. I think he performed well in this circumstance, as I believe he has performed well as a President so far.

Stop being such a bleating partisan sheep and start realizing that, unlike you, many of us are capable of thinking outside mindless partisan lines.

Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Attucks -

Ah, I was wondering where my favorite troll stalker was. Your point is, as usual, pointless and makes no sense at all.

Thanks for reminding both me how incapable you are of a meaningful comment and how much of a fan of mine you are to be remembering my comments from six months ago. LOL

ctnickel:

Apparently, your own mindless partisanship makes your reading comprehension as feeble as m_mcmahons. Keep on bleating like the partisan sheep you are.

Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Agree that this thing had a modest upside and a disastrous downside for the president.

Of course, all of armchair warriors will second guess the tactics, but a win is a win.

Kudos to the SEALs, and the same to Obama for not blinking when a kill decision had to be made.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | April 13, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

WillSeattle -

"But a shame how many unpatriotic slime there are in the Republicant party."

Always nice to see a partisan hack demonstrate what a hypocrite they are, questioning the patriotism of anyone who dare not share their narrow political views.

Posted by: bobmoses | April 13, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

LOL! White House Worship!

Sorry Froomy, but O'Bomba did not do a thing!

The Captain was rescued by members of an Elite Military Force O'Bomba was NEVER even remotely affiliated with;

Until some morons got together and made him their Commander in Chief!

Truth, he probably slowed down everything!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 13, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin is right on - even the success of this operation is being minimized (from the article, "But: "The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama's adversaries are unlikely to be mollified by his performance in a four-day hostage drama."

The moral i take away from Mr. Froomkin's article is that some people just have to find fault. Rainbows aren't touchable. Mom's apple pie isn't frequent enough.

One dispute - President Obama doesn't have to prove himself to his generals, they have to prove themselves to him - Mr. Obama is the commander-in-chief.

Posted by: Mill_in_Mn | April 13, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

US Navy ought to recover all the pirated vessels it can and charge one third value as salvage. That might teach the shipping companies to protect their own vessels. And as to a C in C getting involved in a local incident - shades of the Tonkin Gulf.

Posted by: davidnelsonau | April 13, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

What amazes me is the right wing nut cases who are trying to turn this victory into an indictment of Obama. I think Obama did exactly what the president should do which is to empower the military to do their job. He did and they did. It is a great day for America. There will be other challenges and Obama will have to rise up again. So far, he has shown a humble but forceful approach to military matters and diplomacy. I think most Americans like what they see despite the shrill protests from the right wingers.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | April 13, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I don't think most Americans consider this matter to be too significant. Although I am loathe to cast stones at the "Washington press corps" whose work I most often find thoughtful and interesting, I think it is wrong to think that much could have been made of this to hurt President Obama's standing, unless things are stupider than I think they are. Is a Senator or Congressman going to argue that the recommendation to discontinue the F-22 is perilous as exemplified by the fact that one pirate got away? Having written it, I realize the answer is yes. I would be much more concerned if senior military personnel felt like they were more obligated to follow the President's policy on, say, Afghanistan because this pirate incident went well. I'm expecting better out of the nonelected military leaders. It is perhaps this new President's strength that he recognizes (and recognizes that the American people understand) that not everything is going to go perfect and both when it does and when it does not, there will be a certain amount of stupidity to deal with. To me the course of action ordered by the President is obvious; carrying it out as well as it was must have been harder. Well done by all.

Posted by: Robert36 | April 13, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

To: m_mcmahon
You do realize that Clinton was offered Osama on a platter by The Sudan but found a "legal" loophole to slip through to avoid the messy details. And how about the embassy bombings and the first World Trade Center attack? And the earlier conflict in Somalia? If Clinton had such a great plan to "roll back Al-Qaida" why didn't he employ it and save the country a lot of heartache? Check the archival footage and you'll see and hear Clinton endorsing taking out the big guy in Iraq...as did most of "your ilk" in Congress - just before the poll-driven, opportunistic cowards "voted for the war before they voted against it". Were the Somali pirates hijacking ships while Clinton was in office? You did claim these events were taking place "for years". What did he do to combat the escalation of piracy on the high seas? And, by the way, I love how you liberals label anybody who doesn't agree with your positions as "blowhards" and much worse. Since Obama was crowned I've never seen more of the "pot calling the kettle black". The vitriol emanating from you lefties more than drowns out the warnings coming from conservatives. So, run along back to those merchants of truth, i.e. Olberman, Matthews and Maddow for your daily dose of talking points. By the way...ever notice that idiot warmonger Bush kept your sorry a$$ safe in your bed every night since 9/11? Ever heard the term "a disgrace to the uniform"?

Posted by: ddnfla | April 13, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

While we have the encouraging news this week that the US Navy in all its might can defeat four men, there remains the taint nurtured in the George Bush hothouse that the US Navy, by far the world's most powerful, still seems pretty damn helpless in the face of larger-than-four-men-scale piracy. Which isn't all that large-scale yet.

The false argument is persistently trotted out that you can't really patrol an area as large as that in which African pirates do their stuff -- suggesting that some sort of wildass patrolling is the only possible thing.

There is a wellknown alternative, and the US defense budget can easily accommodate it: offering convoy escorts through the imperilled waters.

That this works showed up in World War II, when for years on end, British naval convoys protected vast numbers of cargo ships from an entire fleet of highly-skilled, well-armed German submarines. Such foes were greatly more dangerous than gangs of rowdies in open boats, armed with RPGs and AK47s.

It's a national shame that nothing like this has been on offer for some years now. Does the United States government stand for peace and global trade, or doesn't it?

Whether Obama or any other US president can achieve such a military operation is dubious. Within hours of the Obama announcement some months back of the planned closure of the terrorist prison at Guantanamo, some unnamed government employee was whispering into journalists' ears that a man earlier appraised as not a terrorist and accordingly released from Guantanamo some time earlier, was possibly the same man under another name working against United States interests through terror. This piece of gross and possibly fictional disloyalty suggested that the nation's military and other security employees think the main business of American presidents is signing checks and praising the military. Possibly the sole business.

Posted by: kunino | April 13, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

On Convoys:
"That this works showed up in World War II, when for years on end, British naval convoys protected vast numbers of cargo ships from an entire fleet of highly-skilled, well-armed German submarines"...

...this was an all-consuming effort that contributed in rendering the British unable to prosecute the war to its end; added to the permanent destruction of British economic and military might continuing to this day; that left Great Britain prostrate to the Americans who swept up the pieces toward the end of the war; and led to the utter and complete rollback and abandonment of the colonies which had for so long enriched the British Empire.

Clearly we should follow that model--just as the increasingly powerful rival "developing" countries climb to the position that industrializing America reached shortly prior to the Second Great War.

Of course, the narrow passageways of the British Isles, bordered by Allied states at the time of the Second Great War, are slightly different geographically than the one-million square-mile stretch in question--of the 700,000,000 square mile Indian Ocean--and bordered by states inhabited by hundreds of millions of starving poor: a population noticeably less sympathetic to the whims of the Americans than the client-state governments that "rule" them, and, without much to live for, increasingly likely to take desperate measures.

However, elsewhere it is suggested that the costs of such US Navy Frigate convoys can be passed along to the shipping companies (read: consumers). In that, at least, we can be secure.

Posted by: optimist3 | April 13, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

For some time I've been grumbling about the hysterical partisan invective which some people think is normal discourse. For the record, there is plenty of blame to go around.

What Froomkin's piece does point out correctly, I think, is that our reactions to these events have become disproportionate to the reality of them. Every perceived accomplishment is heralded by one side and denounced by the other, and every misstep is magnified into some cataclysmic catastrophe. If Capt. Phillips had been killed, it would (of course) have been a tragedy, but no greater one than any of the other losses of Americans. In this case, we should all be glad the system worked. Then we should move on.

Full disclosure: I am a centrist. I have no interest in canonizing Obama into a saint or in demonizing him as a traitor. I realize that shrieking at one's opponents brings a certain kind of emotional rush, but demonizing one's opponents ultimately does damage by desensitizing one to the many subtleties and nuances of real life--people are never always right or always wrong--true for Bush, true for Obama. When Dems cannot criticize Obama when he messes up or Republicans cannot praise him when he gets it right, we're in a bad place. And the ones who have put us there are us.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | April 13, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

sesombob is typical of the right wing today-they exist in a fact free Lewis Carroll universe where every fact is mutable to serve whatever political end the Party demands, at any time, with no continuity or consistency over time.
It's not even lying anymore, it is more like the stories my sister's patients at the mental hospital tell when they explain why they are in for an involuntary stay. Sometimes these stories are very interesting versions of reality, and others don't resemble in the slightest likely real world scenarios. The only themes are victimhood, persecution, rage and self-pity.
Is our nation learning to be crazy because it is easier than dealing with the truth? That conservatism failed, that no one is really John Galt, the individual isn't special and there is no one persecuting you beyond your own inability to get out of your own way in life?

Posted by: sparkplug1 | April 13, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

try to play me close
now you on the red beam

cement shoes
now I'm on the move

you should think about it
take a second
matter fact you should take 4 B

drop it like it's hot

Posted by: pressF1 | April 13, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

When will you speak about the murder man Obama like you did about Bush for 8 years!!

Seems to be a difference in your "honest" brain!!

Posted by: hotdad14 | April 13, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

It speaks volumes of the Washington Post and the media in general that the risk/reward picture was so asymmetrical. If anything had gone wrong, the media would been eager to hold up a megaphone to every whackjob to denounce Obama, but when everything goes right you will barely notice it.

Anyone who thinks the American media isn't owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Republican coroporate elite ought to think about this one. The small issues are often the most revealing.

Posted by: MagicDog1 | April 13, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

President Obama is dammed by the media no matter how he handles matters. He was very successful with the piracy episode but the media HAS to bring in the what ifs and criticize.
The American people are getting tired of the bias. Wake up, media. You are doing nothing but discrediting even more your integrity as the American people have the
intelligence you do not give us credit for.

Posted by: kathlenec | April 13, 2009 11:10 PM | Report abuse

So the "former Bush White House official Peter Feaver" is now asking questions what is Obama going to do with the pirate threats. Did he ask what was George W Bush going to do, here as elsewhere, all those years? Did he ever ask "Now what" to Bush?

Posted by: steviana | April 13, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

dickdata wrote:

"We need for a UN or NGO group to go in and negotiate a consensus government and provide money and training in forming a government and police."

So you are willing to bargain with and subsidize the local rascals? Generally speaking they make the Bloods and Crips look like wimps, and for very logical reasons too.

Actually, that may very well be the way to secure our own interests, and is probably why the US is famous for having done so during the Cold War. Think about it.

Posted by: JeffRandom | April 13, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I think that in openly hoping for Obama to fail the right wingnuts have crossed a watershed. They are not fully marginal. It's time for the last of the non-yahoo Republicans to bail out and at least call themselves independents, because if you remain in this party when the party line is a wish for America to fail then you have no place in our political lives. You belong in a dog's dish

Posted by: chrisfox8 | April 14, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Optimist3, while I agree that WWII bled the British white, convoy escorts were just one of the costs they had to absorb. Part of the reason it was so expensive is that the British were facing an enemy with resources rivaling its own. That is not true of us and the Somali pirates. Convoy escorts were also necessary. The British would have lost the war in months without the convoys.

You seem badly misinformed about the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic stretched from the east coast of the US to the waters around Great Britain, going from Iceland to South America. That is a bigger theater than what the Somali pirates operate in. I'm also curious about the allied states you said bordered Great Britain. Ireland bordered on Great Britain, but it was not an ally. The US did not border on Britain, nor did the Commonwealth. The allies in continental Europe fell to the Nazis very early in the war and were negligible in their contributions to the Battle of the Atlantic.

Posted by: jimwalters1 | April 14, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

The Obama steamroller is about to roll over George W.Bush and the pathetic Republican party that blindly supported arguably the worst President in the history of the United States of America. Every success for Obama will be amplified when compared to the abysmal failures of the Bush Presidency. This is as it should be ,for Bush's place in history is assured having been written in blood ,lies and incompetence .Watch out Bush ,the noise you hear behind you is that of Justice and Truth catching up with you.Obama the Steamroller of History.

Posted by: wcoffey20 | April 14, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

DDNFLA you lose all credibility when you start with what you consider to be name calling. Don’t you realize that calling someone a liberal and spitting out the word like it was bitter castor oil is no longer in vogue. Most people do not consider that an insult, really only the diehards cling to it. Anyhow you assume I am one of those dreaded libruls out to undermine our great god-given god-fearing country etc… You could not be more wrong. I am actually a fiscal conservative and a socially liberal. So as an all or nothing party the republicans offer me nothing and the Bush administration offered even less as it was one of the most fiscally irresponsible administrations ever.

But apparently a posting I made explaining my rational and how I call out bobmoses for his trying to call others out as partisan is not out here. Apparently the word crud is not allowed. I’m not up to repeating myself about it so all I’ll say is get off the talking points and get into reality. Obama crowned? Bush kept us safe? Except of course on 9/11 and the anthrax scares and the thousands of troops dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, assaulting the constitution with your blessing and imperiling our country by bankrupting us…right except for those things sure you may have a point with your talking points. Good one, gee that is original thought. The pirating issue on the horn of Africa has been going on seriously for about 5 years now. So I guess going by your logic it must be Clinton’s (whom I never voted for) fault. I also don’t watch any televised news nor do I listen to the radio, so that point you try to make is moot.

Optomist3 regarding convoys it sound like a good idea but when you take into account that assembling a convoy takes time and time is money, many business owners may object and continue to go it on their own.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 14, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I think you are right about the modest upside and big downside to this kind of thing, but the recent historical record is really quite mixed.

Jimmy Carter probably lost the presidency because of the botched hostage rescue in 1980. The military screwed up, but Carter paid the price (sadly, along with a dozen or so American soldiers). However, Ronald Reagan did not suffer nearly as much from the Lebanon disaster, most likely because it was preceded by the Granada cakewalk and because of his popular tough stance on the strike by air traffic controllers.

That said, President Obama shouldn't count on getting a pass in a future debacle. After all, G. H. W. Bush didn't get a long term bump from the brilliantly conducted Kuwait invasion. Nor did Bill Clinton pay the ultimate political price for Mogadishu, perhaps because his later Bosnian efforts were more successful.

Posted by: wgmadden | April 14, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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