Other than with a tidal wave of leaks -- all designed to portray a dithering administration in disarray as bold and decisive -- the White House never has explained the "what, why and how" for the decisions it has made (or has failed to make) on issues affecting our security. Worse, the damage done by publicly disclosing highly classified national security information has put Americans at risk, jeopardized our ability to collect important intelligence and seriously damaged vital relationships with our allies. The Obama White House now says the leakers "must be held accountable." That's about as likely as the sun rising in the west tomorrow morning.
This week's domestic policy decisions on Capitol Hill obscure the sanguinary consequences of attention-deficit disorder at the White House. In his June 4, 2009, Cairo speech, Obama famously expressed his "commitment" to "governments that reflect the will of the people" and specified, "You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party."
Yet just two weeks later, when the ayatollahs ruling in Iran brutally crushed a popular challenge to a fraudulent presidential election, the O-Team decided to do nothing. Four months later, he was named a Nobel Prize winner.
Last year, as Arab Spring revolutions began sweeping dictators from power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the White House announced a new doctrine: the "responsibility to protect" innocent civilians from despots -- and let the United Nations and NATO "take the lead."
Now, for the Syrian people caught in the crossfire of a civil war, the lack of American leadership is nothing short of catastrophic. Human rights groups estimate that the 15-month rebellion against the Assad regime in Damascus has cost more than 14,000 lives and at least 25,000 wounded -- most of them innocent civilians.
On June 28, as the White House focused on Supreme Court and congressional decisions in Washington, Turkish troops were moving into position along their border with Syria. In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his army regards Syrian military units approaching Turkey as a threat.
At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispatched more naval infantry to protect the Russian naval base at Tartus -- and presumably the underground joint Syrian-Russian command center in Damascus. The Obama administration, distracted by events in Washington, issued a response from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Helsinki, Finland: "We have great hope" that a meeting this weekend in Geneva hosted by U.N. special emissary Kofi Annan will be "a critical turning point."
The operative word is "hope." Hope is not a course of action. A course of action necessitates making decisions. Decisions require paying attention to what's happening. That's just one more reason we need to hire a commander in chief with an attention span greater than that of a fruit fly.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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