Obama the Conflicted or Obama the Conquerer?

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In just a short period of time Wednesday night, President Obama gave us a lot to think about with his announcement that troops will be leaving Afghanistan in droves by 2012.

In just a short period of time Wednesday night, President Obama gave us a lot to think about with his announcement that troops will be leaving Afghanistan in droves by 2012.

He said it clearly and without hesitation:

"For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve."

For anyone from conservative politicos that favor a strong national defense to adherent supporters of President Obama since 2008, the above statement from Wednesday’s national address concerning the next steps in our strategy concerning the war in Afghanistan should come as one that elicits confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. For all of the previous unnecessary and inaccurate talk from months ago of comparing this president’s political trials and tribulations (and even personal attributes as well) to President Ronald Reagan, this was actually a statement and a moment that the Obama Administration could bask in and say that, yes, this was a Reaganesque statement that pointed to foreign relations success. If President G.W. Bush had his “Mission Accomplishment” moment, then President Obama has his “I have conquered” moment Wednesday night.

Then, of course, the president also said this with a straight face:

"When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny… In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens"

Mentioning his justification of taking American military resources into Libya so soon after criticizing the decision to initiate the war effort during his address Wednesday resonated of both geopolitical hypocrisy (as both efforts involved the United States involving itself in the business of taking out a dictator that was accused of harming his own people) and electoral positioning perhaps overlooked by many listening to the president’s words.

It begs the question: was the Afghanistan speech a moment of confirmation and victory or a moment that signaled the start of another hodge-podge direction that will yield very mixed and costly results for the American people?

Perhaps it was simply both.

In a subtle but direct way, President Obama out-cowboyed President Bush, not only by approving a surge in Afghanistan that has been successful in stabilizing the region, but also but took out Public Enemy No. 1: Obama bin Laden. Further, Mr. Obama’s willingness to call out Pakistan once again – basically reminding them and the rest of the world that the cowardice of harboring terrorists that target or harm the United States will not be safe even within their borders – puts the Bush Doctrine on its ear as well as the oft-heard augment from bastions within the conservative political camp that President Obama does not have the grit to perform successfully as Commander-(and Protector)-in-Chief. Early in the administration, they may have had a point. Picking on 15-year-old pirates off of the coast of Africa while getting it wrong with Iran and North Korea was laughable. Taking out bin Laden and ordering a successful surge in Afghanistan is no laughing matter and, further, combine to be a considerable feather in the Obama cap in time for re-election in 2012.

At the same time, the Obama Administration has a strange tendency to do any tango necessary in an attempt to stay in the good graces of political pollsters in a fashion that made his campaign image of “hope and change” from the ways of politics from days past a hollow figure almost from the start of this current presidency. The latest with the Iraq-Libya paradox (even as a bi-partisan group in Congress attempts to hamper his authority to continue the efforts in Libya) serves as just a glimpse into a larger reality: President Obama has a disturbing trend to modify his presidential compass too easily based on personal whims and politics, not advisors and factors benefiting more of the collective good. President Obama’s decision on the withdrawal stayed within the Petraeus guidelines but against the recommendations of the president’s commander on the ground in Afghanistan as well as his Defense Secretary and Secretary of State (perhaps another indication as to why the latter two are leaving the administration.) As well, other international issues such as the criticism of the Iraqi directive and the justification of the Libyan conflict mirror the same back-and-forth compromising that is seen on the domestic front from this administration, whether it be with the Bush-era tax rates (going from opposing them to supporting them in December 2010, only to oppose them again months later) or with the issue of gay marriage (saying that marriage should be between a man and a woman during the 2008 campaign season, only to now speak to gay supporters as a fundraiser in New York state while the Empire State attempts to pass a gay marriage law.) Even in times of victory, President Obama shows the vulnerability that comes when a politician does what most politicians do: say one thing to get elected, do another thing while elected, and attempt to do a third thing when it’s time to get elected again.

Wednesday night showed yet another glimpse into the mind, motives and legacy that is President Barack Obama. In the midst of military victory, there is controversy. In the midst of presidential might, there is the shell game that comes from the worst in politics. And in the end, we got a man that, even in a conquering moment, showed that there are internal and external conflicts that remain to be resolved.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” on The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM WVON (www.wvon.com). Find him Saturdays with host TJ Holmes and fellow pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 9:30 AM CDT (10:30 Eastern / 7:30 AM Pacific.) He is the author of the upcoming edition of the book, “The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook

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