On the night of January 20, 2009, a new commander-in-chief will leave the inaugural podium, parade, and festivities for the Oval Office. A national security staff ready with the latest “threat briefing” will join him there. On his desk, they will place a thick binder of reports, each focusing on real or emerging threats to our national security. In the quiet of the Oval Office -- in the presence of these stern-faced, deadly serious briefers and advisers -- Barack H. Obama, should he be the next president, will come face-to-face with reality.
Americans are afraid of this scenario, Barack H. Obama as commander-in-chief. The New York Times and CBS News released a poll this week; in it, Americans answered detailed questions about this possibility.
The poll’s answers shocked the strategists at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago. An intensive international travel schedule for Obama and a refocus of the campaign’s message on defense and foreign policy speaks to this fear.
The poll says Americans consider him lacking in the abilities necessary to run the armed services. Conversely, the polls show John McCain blows Obama out of the water as a good commander-in-chief. Forty-six percent of respondents thought McCain would very likely “be effective” as commander-in-chief, as opposed to only 24 percent saying the same of Obama. In fact, 36 percent think it is “not likely” Obama will be effective in the position.
Obama’s talents lie in his gift of oratory and his ability to move people with emotion, but this does not necessarily make for a good commander. The chief executive’s job requires forward thinking, realistic assessments of the world’s threats, and the maturity to make judgments in a crisis.
The USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier, is now under construction in Hampton Roads, Va. It will be ready to join the fleet in 2015, replacing a carrier launched 47 years ago. Do we know that the USS Ford will be needed in 2015?
No, we do not. But can we afford to bet against it?
Obama thinks so. According to his own campaign literature, he is willing to let the USS Ford, and many more of tomorrow’s defense technologies, rust at the pier.
The decision to build the aircraft carrier is based on the concept of preparing America for the next war to come. Commanders must anticipate the evil designs of irrational lunatics. It’s always a tricky business, trying to anticipate future unknowns. Nevertheless, the president’s oath is to protect and defend the United States.
A president who hasn’t had any experience in military strategic planning is going to find himself in deep trouble if he finds his strategic armories empty in the face of an advancing enemy.