One of the greatest attributes of an effective leader is the art of listening. Good communication between parties results in mutual understanding and an atmosphere of trust, honor and respect. Unfortunately, such an atmosphere currently does not exist between President Obama and the people of America. It seems he stopped listening to their opinions quite some time ago.
While I could point to any number of instances in which he has failed -- or refused -- to listen to the people, it is the disastrous and rapidly deteriorating war in Afghanistan that best illustrates the great communication divide that exists between these two parties.
President Obama and the American people have now become completely polarized on the issue of war; there is simply no meeting of the minds as he continues to follow his agenda of war while the people increasingly reject it. This president is either tone deaf on this issue or he has no intention of listening to the majority of Americans who now are completely fed up with his steadfast embrace of what is now referred to as "his war."
Obama and the military have been escalating this very costly, misguided war in Afghanistan that has now spread into Pakistan. He previously set a date of July 11 of this year to begin troop withdrawals. Thereafter, General David Patraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates brazenly corrected and overruled him and stated that they intend to continue to occupy that country until 2014, and probably much longer. He has not disputed or rejected those insubordinate comments.
So on the one side of this critical issue we have President Obama, General Patraeus and Secretary Gates. On the opposing side we have the American people who have been slowly but surely making it known that they no longer support the war. A recent poll has shown that many Americans are now saying, "Enough is enough" and want troop withdrawal to begin just as soon as possible. This article in the Huffington Post, March 7, reports on a new poll by Rasmussen indicating that the majority of Americans -- 52% -- want U.S. troops withdrawn within one year; and that 31% want them withdrawn immediately.
Of particular note, this poll was done by a firm generally thought to have conservative leanings. By all indications, it appears that we have finally arrived at a great turning point on this weighty issue. Americans are now fully aware of the monumental costs and the great damage that this war is doing to the financial stability of our nation. And they want no more; they have had enough of it.
But is anyone in the White House listening? Will this very strong opinion register with this president and his military associates? America has now arrived at a critical crossroads. We have now reached that point in time when it must be determined if the voices and the demands of the people of America will be honored by those who are supposed to be serving us -- or have we arrived at the point when a president and the military will unilaterally decide that the people have absolutely no say in the direction that this nation takes?
It's high time that Mr. Obama wakes up to the facts and listens closely to just how strongly Americans feel. They no longer support the illegal occupation and the war in Afghanistan that has brought devastation to that nation and its people over ten painful years. They no longer support the reckless, highly dangerous escalation of this war into Pakistan, a nuclear power. They do not support the unconscionable killing of innocent civilians -- men, women and children -- by deadly drones. They are appalled at the massive cost of this war and what it is doing to this nation domestically.
In direct contrast to these feelings, here is a very good example of the attitude of the Obama administration and what they think about the opinions of the American people. Hillary Clinton, the warlike Secretary of State, reacting to these polls, has stated that "the low public opinion on the war won't change the administration's policy." Further that, "I don't think leaders, and certainly this president, will make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling."
What she is clearing saying is that the public's opinion be damned, that those in control are going to do whatever they wish no matter whether anyone likes it or not. In other words, people of America, just shut up! This is an arrogant, disdainful attitude that has too often been exhibited by this administration since it entered the White House.
Let's get one thing straight about this war and the reasons behind the intense pursuit of it by President Obama, the military and various war hawks in both political parties. The entire notion that we are there because of threats to our national security, and that we must fight Al-Qaeda to assure our safety is a smoke screen and a charade. With the massive power of our entire military establishment, we have the capability to combat any form of terrorism in numerous ways without being mired down in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The fact is that U.S. forces are in Afghanistan to establish a powerful military presence in Central Asia to protect our "national interests," which just happen to involve a network of pipelines to transport natural gas and petroleum. That is what it has been about all along. It is possible that we will eventually see the number of U.S. troops reduced to about 25,000 if and when the Afghan security forces become proficient, but a totally voluntary withdrawal is pure fantasy.
As the critical 2012 presidential election approaches, President Obama must consider all these many factors and think deeply about his current position on the war. He has the opportunity and the power to change the course of America's history by bringing this war to an end. That act of national honor would be the perfect solution for this moral dilemma.
If he refuses to do so, here is the critical choice we will have when casting our votes: We can take the easy route, give in and back off our demands to end the war, and passively vote for him. We can put our moral and ethical beliefs off to the side, accept the fact that we can't really win this battle, and vote him in for a second term. He will win but, in the long run, we will be the real losers.
On the other hand, we can stand for what we feel is morally and ethically right -- not back down -- and refuse to vote for this president if he disregards the will of the majority. If a significant portion of those opposing the war do not cast a vote, it could very well result in election of one of the various Republican misfits who, upon entering office, will institute numerous measures designed to elevate the interests of Corporate America and eliminate those of the people.
This is going to be a gut-wrenching decision for Americans, one that could be totally averted with an action taken by President Obama himself before election time. He has the power to prevent a massive crisis in America by renouncing this war that, in his heart, he must know cannot be justified by any moral measure.