Saturday, September 7, 2013

An open letter to Obama: do your job, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I watched your press conference yesterday at the G20 Meeting in St. Petersburg. At the end of your remarks, you took questions from reporters. One asked you about the number of countries supporting you in your call for military action against Syria. And in your reply to that question, you said the following (my boldface):
Over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children. This is not something we’ve fabricated. This is not something that we are using as an excuse for military action. As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start them. I've spent the last four and a half years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people. But what I also know is, is that there are times where we have to make hard choices if we’re going to stand up for the things that we care about. And I believe that this is one of those times.
With respect, no sir. That is simply untrue. You were not elected to end wars, nor were you elected to start them. You were elected to fulfill the obligations of your office, the Presidency of the United States of America. And chief among those obligations is...no, not instituting a government takeover of the healthcare market...no, not protecting overreaching bureaucracies like the NSA and the EPA...no, not even "creating jobs." Chief among your obligations, among your duties, is maintaining the security of the nation and of its citizens. Above all else, this is the primary role of the President of the United States. As a Constitutional scholar, you should know this.

It is the President who commands the armed forces, it is the President who negotiates treaties, it is the President who appoints people to lead the State Department, who appoints ambassadors, and who oversees that bureaucracy, along with the CIA, the NSA, and others. When it comes to international relations and security, the buck begins and ends with you, sir.

And in that regard, your role is neither to stop or start wars as a matter of course. It is to do what you deem to be appropriate and necessary, first and foremost, when it comes to protecting the nation. The very idea that you would weaken the military as a matter of policy is deeply offensive, not to mention tragically stupid. The world is and always has been a dangerous place. Like it or not, the United States rose to its position in the world as a leader of liberty, open societies, and economic success on the back of a strong military.

This is the way of things. Supposing you might change this is a fool's goal, especially within the span of a mere eight years. And now we see the folly of such efforts, for the world is becoming more dangerous by the second. Despite our response to 9-11, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, the despots and terrorists of the world are on the rise once again. They have assassinated a sitting U.S. Ambassador. They have turned much of the Middle East on its head, from Egypt to Syria to Libya. And you largely sat by and did nothing.

Now, one of those despots has used chemical weapons against his own people, something you publicly stated would not be tolerated, by the United States or the world community. But you cannot act in the name of the world community, you can only act in the name of the United States.

And in that regard, I beg of you: act. Lead. You've had more than enough time to manage your "calculus." Too much time, really. If you believe--as I do--that Assad's actions should not be tolerated, do what needs to be done. Don't wait for Congress to make your decision for you, make your own and let history be the judge. If it really is as important a situation as you keep claiming it to be, that is your only recourse, both morally and pragmatically.

In the end, the American People will respect leadership above all else, this much you must know is true.

If you decide you should not act (and I hope you do not), then speak clearly and plainly about your decision. Put the matter to rest, not in a week or two, but immediately. Again, be the leader you were elected to be. Lead.

Either way, there will be those who disagree, who criticize and attack, but such is always the case, it goes with the job. You alone, sir, are charged with carrying out the duties of your office. Again, people did not vote you into office to end or start wars, they voted you into office because they believed in and trusted in your judgment to do what is necessary, one way or the other.

So do it. Just do it.

Sincerely,

A Citizen of the United States of America

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