The Corner

Optimism of the Will

Max Boot writes:

There is a lot of interesting material in President Obama’s interview with Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic, beginning with the president’s claim: “No, I don’t think we’re losing, and I just talked to our CENTCOM commanders and the folks on the ground.” I can’t help remembering that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush said some variation of that statement regularly between 2003 to 2006 even as we were manifestly losing. Earth to Oval Office: Just because military commanders tell you that they’re not losing doesn’t mean that they’re right!

The US military is the finest fighting force in the world, but its officers are prone to over-optimistic assessments — the flip side of their “can do” ethos. It’s striking that this president who so routinely ignores military advice (by, for example, imposing a time limit on the surge in Afghanistan and by forbidding US advisers in Iraq from leaving their bases) now embraces military thinking when it’s so deeply flawed, yet convenient for him. Like the assessments of progress that emanated from the Pentagon and the White House during 2003–2006, this one is not going to be believed by many people.

P.S.: From Goldberg’s article:

Though he tried to frame his conflict with Netanyahu in impersonal terms, he made two things clear. One is that he will not stop criticizing Israel when he believes it is not living up to its own founding values. And two — and this is my interpretation of his worldview — he holds Israel to a higher standard than he does other countries because of the respect he has for Jewish values and Jewish teachings, and for the role Jewish mentors and teachers have played in his life.

If Goldberg is right, isn’t that a problem? A higher standard is not a compliment; it is a weapon. To hold Jews to a higher standard is to find fault with them for things you would not find fault for in a non-Jew.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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