Daily Meme: Fans of War Shoot at Straw Men

Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at West Point outlining his vision for the use of American power in the future. So how did people react?

  • The consensus on the right was that Obama's speech was a litany of arguments against straw men. "In rebutting his many critics, Obama would be more persuasive if [he] seriously engaged their arguments instead of rebutting arguments that no one is making in the real world," wrote Max Boot at Commentary. "Once again, the president caricatures the views of his critics rather than addressing them fairly," wrote Elliot Abrams, whose continued influence within conservative foreign policy circles is an inspiration to convicted criminals everywhere looking for a second chance.
  • The conservative critics weren't completely wrong—Obama may have overstated their lust for American military action in his speech. But if he exaggerated, it wasn't by much, and many Republicans reacted by once again criticizing the President's insufficient enthusiasm for letting slip the dogs of war. "Too often," said Rep. Ed Royce, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "strong words have been followed by weak actions, or no actions. The result has been a general loss of U.S. credibility, making successful foreign policy nearly impossible."
  • Conservatives are no doubt troubled by the American public's distaste for more wars. But as E.J. Dionne wrote, they only have themselves and their history to blame. "Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home."
  • The fact that a speech like this one, which charted a middle road between militarism and isolationism, is seen by so many as remarkable is remarkable in itself. Max Fischer of Vox wrote that "it may well have been one of the most dovish foreign policy speeches by a sitting US president since Eisenhower." But Slate's Fred Kaplan argued that it was simple common sense, aimed at "the endless stream of politicians, pundits, and Sunday talk show mavens who routinely denounce Obama as the weakest president in American history without knowing anything about history or—most of them—unveiling the slightest hint of what they would do in his place."

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