Tom Englehardt nails the true nature of President Obama’s address to cadets at West Point:
Certainly, the choice of venue, and so the decision to address a military audience first and other Americans second, not only emphasized the escalatory military path chosen in Afghanistan, but represented a kind of symbolic surrender of civilian authority.
Rush Limbaugh’s wistful musing about a military coup is more oblivious than devious: after a perfunctory, brief struggle, the coup is victorious (Of course, if the president had been arrested at West Point and replaced with a military junta, I’m not entirely sure Limbaugh wouldn’t find a way to justify it. Are you?). Under political duress, the president has accepted the role of conditional, if not yet nominal, Commander-in-Chief, surrendering an authority he doesn’t want and wouldn’t know what to do with anyway. Now he bites his nails and waits, like the rest of us.
But it’s not the president’s prerogative to divest himself of command over the armed forces to avoid its political consequences–elite convention notwithstanding. The extraordinary executive power over war itself remains, insulated from legislative or judicial interference, nominally vested in an elected president, wielded by a cabal. This is dereliction of duty of the highest order. The Commander in Chief has abandoned his post to cower in the rear while his mutinous subordinates take command.
But okay, this is all retrograde and simplistic, I know. Just the sort of thing to set elite eyes rolling, like taking the Constitution and sovereignty too seriously. Let’s crassly accept the “political reality” and acknowledge the asymmetry between the White House and the the military establishment :
The Pentagon dictates policy directly to the Republican Party, Fox News, conservative radio and Internet, while fighting to a draw in the contested middle that is the the unallied media.
Obama, on the other hand, leads a party divided on the war and has a more conditional alliance with a media complex–MSNBC, NPR, etc.–that is both less powerful and less subservient than their adversaries. It’s no great boast, but the liberal media and Democratic Party have, on this issue, shown superior independence and character. The difference casts in relief the decadence of the Republican Party and its staunchest media organs.
Meanwhile, in the Boy Wonder’s White House Joseph Biden, garrulous and glib, self-imagined Caesar to Iraq’s Gaul, is what passes for a pragmatist and sage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (her position the product of a previous political capitulation), known for taking flight in hectoring recrimination before the galling indignity that is the unscripted media encounter, is sent abroad to placate a resentful world. The charmless representing the clueless. God help us.