A Few Things Obama Should Remind America - Tonight

Paul Evans

Perhaps, sometime during the debate tonight, President Obama can remind America of what happened the last time we elected an inexperienced tough-talking fortunate-son governor that thought words didn’t matter – there are at least seven-thousand Gold Star families that know they do.

Tonight President Obama and Governor Romney will square off for the last time. Presumably, this event will be about foreign policy – mostly.

For Obama it is an opportunity to win the “tie” between them (Romney “winning” the first debate, Obama “winning” the last).

For Romney it is an opportunity to “look Presidential” even as he chews on Obama’s ankles about Benghazi, Syria, and the Israel-Iran paradigm.

Political campaigns in modern America are ugly: especially in the last panic-filled days before ballots are cast. In these moments our best and worst angels appear. Tonight it is important for our country – that we weigh these competing phantoms appropriately.

The following are things President Obama should remind Americans of all partisan stripes and political affiliations:

  1. Sounding tough – and being tough – are seldom the same thing. Making promises and keeping them is the best policy for the US in an increasingly complex world. Leaders do not need to demand respect; they earn it through consistency, patience, and responsible action/s.

  2. There is a difference between quality and quantity when it comes to the US Defense Budget. For too long we have allowed a select few defense contractors sell the US Military high cost items of questionable value. In simplest terms, crap is crap – regardless of the price tag. Some of our equipment is the most technologically advanced weaponry in human history, some of it - does not work, and cannot work as advertised - ever. The system is designed to protect these "bad choices" and pour money into a bad system to make it almost useful.

    We need fewer Littoral Combat Ships, F-22s, F-35s, and service contracts. We should hold contractors that we do use, accountable. And we should criminalize negligence (at the upper levels of defense acquisitions). When we buy bad stuff, or worse - good stuff that was poorly made and/or delivered in less than requirement-ready shape: that is TREASON, period. On top of that, we have weapons systems that work – are proven – and have unequalled value (A-10s, B-52s, and the modernized Strykers to name a few). Let us not replace the good with the supposedly perfect (when we know that perfect has never worked out as advertised).

    We need a smaller full-time force structure, and a much larger part-time force structure with a robust National Guard prepared for crisis at home and overseas. The US Constitution was clear: we should maintain a Navy, and raise our armies - when circumstances warrant doing so. We should not cut drastically, but we can work to find a smarter proportional balance (1/3 full-time, 2/3 part-time) within our force structure that reflects our values more effectively. And we need to find a way for retired flag officers to stay retired – and out of the military acquisitions processes.

    We need a strong strategic reach (airlift, nukes, and sealift), forward positioned operational capabilities in areas of critical concern, an unmatched quick response for acts of terrorism, and a transparent structure and system for paying for the defense we need – not the defense complex we may want.

  3. The US is still recovering from the damage wrought by the cowboy-foreign-policy of the Bush (II) Administration. The sheer irony of Dan Senor and the gang advising Romney on foreign policy is almost enough to make those of us who spent time in Iraq laugh – almost…

    And the notion that Obama lied about the attack on Benghazi to cover a flawed security assessment and/or protect his political reputation is asinine. First, the location was not an embassy – the rules are different. Second, in a bureaucracy the size of State people at all levels are fearful of being too specific about such things because with a tight budget everyone (everyone) is afraid of spending money that is deemed “wasteful” when it actually prevents an attack. And third, the CIA is now admitting that in briefings to the President and others the message was mixed (to be charitable) – that some believed the act of terror was both the result of a crowd being incited into action by Al Qaeda sympathizers, and a well-planned attack.

    Perhaps Senor would like to revisit the decisions he played apologist for: the disbanding of the Iraqi Army, the complete and total failure of the Bremer Administration, or the purposeful use of the CIA to help spread lies about Ambassador Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame? Or maybe he and Ari Fleischer would like to explain how $7 Billion disappeared (paid to contractors – supposedly – without record), or where the weapons of mass destruction were? Fleischer and Senor, like so many of their generation, earnestly believe they are tough-guys in diplomatic affairs because they shook the Gipper’s hand – and saw Heartbreak Ridge 200 times…

  4. We have stumbled over the past four years, but we have not fallen. President Obama should remind people of the successes across the Middle East – in the places news agencies have deemed too boring (an absence sufficient amounts of blood and/or carnage) to cover: Tunisia for example. Perhaps the President should remind the country that we are not “in Syria” because we have no right to direct the actions of another country; that we might go into Syria with our allies because of the moral righteousness of stopping atrocity – that it is a hard decision with consequences on all sides – not a tagline for a wanna-be presidential candidate trying to act tough.

  5. If an opportunity presents itself, President Obama should remind America that he is reprioritizing our defense and diplomatic interests with the purpose of using strategic hard and soft power to constrain the growth of the People’s Republic of China – and other potential global competitors. This was not a universally favored view by many of the Cold Warriors, but it is the smart decision given the drastic changes in our international economy.

  6. President Obama should explain his approach to Israel and Iran with clarity. He would be well served to remind folks that the computer wars and most recent rounds of embargoes were implemented on his watch; that Iran has both asymmetrical as well as symmetrical response options should it become necessary to take unilateral action – and that war is, and should remain, the last – worst option. Also, in response to Bibi – Obama should remind the world that when the Palestinians threatened full statehood through the UN, it was Obama that stood firm against it – threatening a veto – to protect the interests of our ally Israel.

  7. Finally, tonight President Obama should remind America why a cautious, non-dramatic, thoughtful foreign policy is better than foreign-policy-as-theater. The Presidency is not a prize to be "won," but rather a duty for the man or woman uniquely tailored to the exigencies of our times. We need a rational actor on the world stage. “Dead or alive,” sounds great in a Western when the community is united in the chase for an undeniable bad guy. Real-life and the real world are far more complicated.

    Perhaps, sometime during the debate tonight, President Obama can remind America of what happened the last time we elected an inexperienced tough-talking fortunate-son governor that thought words didn’t matter – there are at least seven-thousand Gold Star families that know they do.

  • (Show?)

    Debate positions for the President:

    Swagger is not a foreign policy. We had eight years of that. War is a last choice, not first. Regime change by military invasion should not be the policy of the United States towards Iran or any other country. Russia is not our enemy, but a strategic partner with whom we have differences. (PS- The Cold War is over.) Permanent war is not desirable nor sustainable. We must bring our troops home. It's time to do nation building at home and not in the MIddle East. .

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