Helene Cooper
NY Times
January 10, 2010

Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on the Daily Beast blog two weeks ago that Mr. Obama needs to toughen up with his adversaries. “He puts far too much store on being the smartest guy in the room,” Mr. Gelb wrote. “He’d do well to remember that Jimmy Carter also rang all the I.Q. bells.”

So soon? Here is a president who just ramped up the war in Afghanistan, sending an additional 30,000 American troops. He has stepped up drone strikes by unmanned Predators in Pakistan and provided intelligence and firepower for two airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen that killed more than 60 militants. He has resisted the temptation to sign a new nuclear arms agreement with Russia that might not provide American inspectors with the level of verification detail that they want. He is moving toward the wide use of full body scans in American airports. On Thursday, in an oblique nod to the Cheney criticism, he even used the phrase “we are at war,” in describing the fight against Al Qaeda.


[efoods]But labels can stick, as Mr. Carter himself found out so well, and as the Republicans also know from their experience parrying the opposite stereotype — of cowboy-style recklessness, first under Ronald Reagan and later under George W. Bush (whose own father, oddly, was said to have suffered from a “wimp factor”). [Editor’s Note: Webster Tarpley reports on George H.W. Bush’s wimp factor in his Unauthorized Biography. Evidently the wimp factor has very little to do with the willingness to promulgate war or kill innocent women and children.]


The problem though, is that many of the steps he can take against terrorism — like intelligence co-operation, drone strikes and covert actions — are, by their very nature, often invisible. “He needs visible victories there, like hits on Al Qaeda leaders, so no one is able to put together a narrative that says he’s weak,” said David J. Rothkopf, a Clinton administration official [Editor’s note: also managing director of Kissinger and Associates and CFR member] and author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.”


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