Amid all the conservative criticism of Obama’s reluctance to use, or threaten to use, military force to further America’s policy ends, whether presently in Iraq/Syria against ISIS, back in 2011 in the case of the residual force in Iraq, against the Somali pirate home bases, etc., no commentators or analysts on the left or right have talked about a fundamental root cause for Obama’s attitude and beliefs in this regard. Of course there is raw leftist/progressive ideology at work here, in Obama’s core belief, as stated for example to the public in the Middle East in his famous address at the University of Cairo in 2009, that America’s foreign policy has been too interventionist and the use of force has been too often counter-productive…but there is also, at work in Obama’s narcissistic psyche, the idea that he is America’s black Jack Kennedy, and that he, Obama, is the one true embodiment of President Kennedy’s legacy, ethos and gravitas, as compared to Clinton who failed as a transformative president, and that the Obama administration is the Son of Camelot.
This is the deep explanation for Obama’s strong reluctance to use military power, because he patterns himself after Kennedy’s suspicion of the military and the entire national security establishment, especially the CIA, in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco and during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Papa Joe Kennedy had warned his son to be suspicious of concentrations of power around him that threatened the power and independence of the presidency, and Obama feels exactly the same way. During the Cuban missile crisis Kennedy continued to reject the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation to launch air strikes on the Soviet missile installations and escalate the use of other military force, and even invade Cuba, but Kennedy held firm, with only the support of his brother Bobby, and finally Kennedy fashioned the compromise response of the naval blockade, which did work in the sense of removing the immediate Soviet nuclear threat.
And now, in retrospect, the kinds of historians Obama reads maintain that had Kennedy not held firm against all the counsels around him urging a stronger response, that, because, among other things, there was a Soviet submarine off the shore of Cuba at the time, armed with nuclear torpedoes and out of communication with its headquarters, that had hostilities escalated a nuclear exchange could very easily have taken place and further escalation to full scale war could probably have not been averted. And Kruschev and the hawks in the Soviet Union probably would have escalated under the variations of scenarios concocted now by the historians, and…Kaboom!
So, being the black Kennedy, Obama has prided himself on walking back, at the last minute, his chemical weapons use red line in Syria in 2013, and micro-managing the U.S. military activity against ISIS, and the drone kill list, and a myriad of other decisions, policy and operational, that determine the structure and functioning of the military. Not that any of these decisions have been as critical as ole Jack’s Cuban missile crisis management, but Obama would just sigh, and quickly mentally recall President Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf moment that launched America into the Vietnam war, and then he would shake his head in that professorial kind of way, because only the greatest of men, at the top of the pyramid, can withstand the violent primal urges that animate the U.S. war machine, and only presidents of such refined calibre can take the long view, for America’s ultimate well-being, and usher in the nation-wide Camelot that was so rudely interrupted in 1963. In his own mind that is.