In the recently published Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard there is a lengthy description of the events leading up to the Bay of Pigs disaster. An irresolute President John F. Kennedy, after ordering the invasion of Cuba by a group of Cuban exiles with promised naval and air support from United States forces abandoned the rebels. But Mr. Kennedy vacillated on virtually every aspect of the invasion plan thus ensuring the disaster that subsequently unfolded.
He changed the location of the invasion from Trinidad Beach to the swamps of the Bay of Pigs. He cut air support from B-26 bombers in half. He cancelled a diversionary landing. He called off a second wave of air strikes and he failed to call off the invasion when it became apparent that the troops were neither prepared nor supported by promised military assistance. And Mr. Kennedy told the world that there would be no boots on the ground. (Does any of this sound familiar?)
The defeat was staggering according to Mssrs. O’Reilly and Dugard:
“The defeat is a major humiliation for the United States. Kennedy is forced to give a press conference and take full blame. ‘There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. What matters,’ he says, is that I am the responsible officer of the government.’
“One day JFK will look back and speculate that the Bay of Pigs blunder could have given the U.S. military to interfere with the civilian government on the grounds that the president was unsuited for office.”
In marked contrast to today’s president, Mr. Kennedy had the grace and courage to accept responsibility for the mission’s failure although he never did acknowledge publicly the particulars of that failure.
He declined criticism of the rising Soviet Union and its increasingly brutal repression of Soviet Bloc nations and was so fearful of being viewed as weak that he avoided comments on many international situations so as not to be challenged by the world’s bullies. His lone venture was commencement of America’s participation in Vietnam, which he began with no plan for winning and no strategy for exiting. He sent the young men and women of my generation to fight and die in the jungles of Southeast Asia without purpose, commitment, or tactical support. His successors, Pres. Lyndon Johnson and Pres. Richard Nixon continued that feckless strategy that eventually cost over 57,000 American lives and a humiliating defeat – not because of the quality of our military but because of the active interference by our presidents.
And while Kennedy and his biographers described his challenges in terms of the perceived strength of the nation, in point of fact it was singularly the strength of a weak man being tested and found wanting by the international community. Men and women fought and died because of that weakness. The world was brought to the edge of nuclear Armageddon (the Cuban missile crises) because of that weakness.
Fast forward to today. The prescient words of Vice-president Joe Biden about President Barack Obama continue to ring true throughout the international community. In a previous column I noted with regards to those words:
“Shortly after Obama’s election, Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, noted that the world would test ‘this brilliant man’ and that it is ‘not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right, in how we deal with whatever it is.’ Biden was correct that the world would test Obama and they have done so repeatedly and the world has universally concluded that he is weak, indecisive, irregular and that he lacks vision and resolve when it comes to international affairs. By any measure short of the far left’s agenda for a non-dominant America, the Obama administration has failed.”
Once heralded as the ‘savior of the world” by the international press corps. Mr. Obama has proven to be a duplicitous braggart saying whatever he thinks others want to hear and willing to throw anyone under the bus to advance his electability. He has preened before the world’s cameras, ridiculed the nation’s allies, and pandered to the monsters who have perverted Islam and tortured and murdered their fellow citizens. When the Russians granted Edward Snowden asylum many in Mr. Obama’s inner circle urged him to call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Wiser heads prevailed because it was evident that most of the world’s leaders were standing in line waiting for a chance to tell Mr. Obama to pound sand.
But now they have their chance. Mr. Obama has boldly called for a military strike in Syria to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for using sarin gas on its own citizens – Mr. Obama’s so-called “red line.” The British, historically our strongest ally, promptly rejected participation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her opponent in the upcoming election have refused to participate. Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper has declined to participate. France, which called for military intervention early in the civil war, is vacillating, liking neither Mr. Obama nor his plan. The international press corps is still looking for anyone of significance willing to participate with Mr. Obama.
Even Mr. Obama, having finally arrived at a decision, has equivocated by tossing the problem to Congress without conceding that he requires its concurrence. This is a heads he wins, tails he wins attempt. (Proving once again that politics is more important than principle.) He can look strong if Congress turns him down. He can have cover if Congress approves. But in reality his proposed “pin prick” strategy is too late, too little and too marginal to effectively change the outcome of the Syrian civil war. At best it only permits Mr. Obama to say he acted – not decisively, not effectively, not purposefully, but only that he acted.
Mr. Obama failed to assist when the civil war began. At that time our robust participation in the form of substantial weapons and imposition of a no-fly zone could have meant victory for the opposition – an opposition who, at that time, was not dominated by Islamists and elements of al-Qaida. Mr. Obama’s recalcitrance allowed the rise of these extremist organizations and have almost guaranteed that if Mr. Assad falls the vacuum will be filled by forces who hate America even more than Mr. Assad.
Because Mr. Obama dithered when he should have acted, we have reached the point where there does not appear to be any good solution for Syria – most assuredly Mr. Obama’s limited “pinprick” strategy is not the solution.
However, what matters is that we not succumb to Mr. Obama’s astonishing assertion that this dilemma caused by his inaction has become a test of the nation’s resolve, its commitment, its international stature. This is not about the nation or its citizens, none of whom have ever been consulted with regard to Syria. This is about Mr. Obama, his ego and his mistaken belief in his own omnipotence. He has singularly caused this problem and calling upon our nation’s young men and women to bail him out militarily is as hypocritical as the wasting of American lives by Mssrs. Johnson and Nixon during the Vietnam War because they were afraid to be perceived as losing the war.
It is hard to imagine that anyone assuming the presidency has been as ill prepared as Mr. Obama. It is hard to imagine anyone serving as president for a full term has learned so little from his endless mistakes.
In this instance, doing nothing may be better than anything Mr. Obama proposes.