Friday, September 5, 2014

Speed isnít leadership

For hunters, a winning strategy involves being able to identify exactly what they are shooting at before they pull the trigger. Even so, some members of Congress are calling on President Obama to just start shooting, whether or not he knows what the target is.
    The president is being accused of a serious lack of leadership for refusing to immediately pursue the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which just beheaded two journalists. Opponents are deriding his insistence on having a strategy—not just any strategy, but a winning strategy.
    Americans have had a bellyful of experience with taking action before planning. Wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were easy to get into and nearly impossible to get out of with long-term success or dignity. Sadly, there seems to be no shortage of those who are ready to do it this way again.
    A losing strategy is easy: Send American troops, even though we have too little understanding of the issues or the enemies they will face. It’s a strategy fueled by rage at the depravity and cruelty of enemies who kill and torture innocents. It may feel right and righteous, but it lacks the cool calculation necessary for success.
    U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggests that Obama is foolish to begin foreign-policy thinking with the caution, “Don’t do something stupid.” Democratic leaders in Congress are also calling on Obama to take some kind of action, apparently believing doing something, even if it is stupid and wrong, is better than doing nothing.
    It is neither cowardly nor confused to insist on a clear plan and an ultimate goal worth the risks before putting military boots on the ground or planes in the air.
    So far, finding a winning strategy that involves Iraq or Syria has eluded us. The danger is that anger and frustration over continuing conflict in areas where America already has spent too many lives and too much treasure will make us act before we know what actions we should take and what results we can expect.
    ISIS and other terrorist groups win when they provoke foolish reactions. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman warned this week that when Americans are in too big a hurry, we risk ignoring cultural complexities that come back to haunt us
    Before Congress and President Obama put American men and women in combat again, they should take all the time necessary to determine exactly what the end game will be, and whether that end is worth the cost.
    That will be true leadership.

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