When King George VI gave his Sept. 3, 1939, war message to the people of the British Empire, it was a time of great moment. It was a "grave hour," he began, "perhaps the most fateful in our history." The king said that "for the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war." That, however, was back when war was war. Now it is just kinetic military activity.
The king's speech, so recently dramatized in an Oscar-winning film starring Colin Firth, was significant because though George VI suffered a speech impediment, his message was of the highest importance. President Obama, by contrast, has always been given ludicrously high marks for his abilities as an orator but seldom has anything substantive to say.
Mr. Obama waited nine days after U.S. forces began to engage in hostilities in Libya to make a major address to the nation. He initially avoided making more than perfunctory remarks because U.S. involvement in the nonwar was supposed to be brief and limited. But as the kinetic became more frenetic, and Mr. Obama didn't see the favorable bump in public opinion most presidents enjoy after unleashing military force, he was compelled to address the issue head on. Unbeknownst to the novice commander in chief, Mr. Obama faces a mass of contradictions that makes this conflict a hard sell.
- Mr. Obama has started a war that is not a war.
- Mr. Obama is using military force, but his secretary of defense says there is no vital American interest involved.
- Mr. Obama sold the country and the United Nations on a no-fly zone, but coalition forces are targeting Libyan ground troops.
- Mr. Obama's mandate was to protect civilian lives, but he is actively siding with the rebellion.
- Mr. Obama has praised the "legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people," but many of the rebels are Islamist radicals and even members of al Qaeda.
- Mr. Obama has gone to war to prevent a "bloodbath" in Libya but only offers empty words to innocent Syrians being gunned down by the Assad dictatorship.
- Mr. Obama has said the United States is not seeking to force regime change but believes that Moammar Gadhafi "has to go."
- Mr. Obama said there would be no "boots on the ground" in Libya but reports are emerging that some boots have landed.
- Mr. Obama said the operation would be handed over to NATO but the United States will still be doing the heavy lifting.
- Mr. Obama said Operation Odyssey Dawn would be limited to "days, not weeks," but now it is projected to go on for months, or longer.
- Mr. Obama denounced his predecessor President George W. Bush for unilateralism but the O Force has gone to war with no congressional authorization, fewer coalition partners and weaker support from the Arab world.
All of these contradictions were of the president's making and are the product of trying to preserve an exalted image that now only a few members of the White House inner circle still believe. The Nobel Prize-winning man of peace who expanded America's wars; the champion of Muslims who only helps them when it's convenient; and the great global leader who continually emphasizes America's declining influence: What a long strange odyssey the Obama presidency has become.
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