Magazine article USA TODAY

Obama's Dangerous Illusions

Magazine article USA TODAY

Obama's Dangerous Illusions

Article excerpt

DEALING WITH the simultaneous crisis in the Ukraine and Middle East could vex the most determined and principled president. Making these matters worse, we do not have such a president. Barack Obama has refused to support America's allies or stand up to its enemies. From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, U.S. presidents built an impressive network of allies in every region of the world. We were trusted by friends and feared by enemies. Over the past six years of his presidency, Obama has undercut 70 years of work by these former commanders in chief.

The list of misguided decisions is staggering: failing to secure a status of forces agreement with the Iraqis after Pres. Bush had pulled off a surprising victory; escalating involvement in Afghanistan while simultaneously setting an arbitrary deadline for removing U.S. troops; withdrawing of the promised anti-ballistic missile system to Poland and the Czech Republic; refusing to arm the pro-Western Syrian rebels; failing to follow up on the intervention in Libya or protect our consulate in Benghazi and allowing that country to descend into chaos; undercutting Egypt's initial effort to gain a pro-Israeli cease-fire with Hamas; allowing our relationship with the Saudis to deteriorate; refusing to provide military assistance to the Ukrainian government in the face of Russian aggression; supporting deep cuts in the our military force structure; and providing sloppy oversight of the National Security Agency as it eavesdrops on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conversations.

Consequently, allies whose support is needed in the fight against Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin and ISIS have little faith that Obama will follow up on anything that proves to be too challenging or costly. The root of this failure is found in Obama's personality, his rapid ascent to the presidency, and his naive faith in his own charms and powers of persuasion. Many U.S. presidents have had a puffed-up picture of themselves--no wonder. It takes a massive ego to seek the office. Once a man has attained it, he can be more certain about all the wonderful things he always knew about himself. These self-illusions are fed by a White House staff with its retinue of sycophants and yes-men. In the course of their administrations, some presidents come to terms with their own limitations and become better men and better presidents. In other cases, the narcissism is so deep that a president never may understand his limitations.

If a leader has self-illusions, he may have illusions about how others, beyond those who are paid to curry favor, see him. Catapulted into the presidency with few accomplishments, going from one successful election campaign to another, Obama developed grand illusions about himself. In none of his previous positions did he have to take on a difficult issue or a complex project. Riding this glide path, Obama may have been convinced that his charm, intelligence, and glib tongue were enough to win people over.

He was called a community organizer without having organized anything of substance, a constitutional scholar without writing a single word of legal scholarship, and a legislator without authoring or sponsoring any significant legislation. He made one spellbinding speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004 and suddenly none of that other stuff mattered. …

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