Why Does the Military Have Such a Low Opinion of the Commander-in-Chief? (And What Can President Obama Do to Change that Perception?)

President Bush, center, arrives at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, as Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of the multinational forces in Iraq, left and CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, right, look on, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Bush, center, arrives at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, as Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of the multinational forces in Iraq, left and CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, right, look on, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

In the flood of polling we see every week there is occasionally some eye-popping nugget of data that washes up on the political landscape. The Post’s poll of members of the armed services who went to Iraq or Afghanistan has quite a few, but I will focus on one.

The poll tell us, among other things, that this president is much less respected by the troops he leads than his predecessor:

When it comes to their most-senior commander, the vets decisively prefer [President] George W. Bush to [President] Obama. Only a third approve of the way Obama is handling his job, and 42 percent of them think he has been a good commander in chief despite his decisions to bring troops home from Iraq, wind down the war in Afghanistan and increase resources for veterans. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of them think Bush, who launched both wars, was a good commander in chief.

We don’t know why their view of Obama is comparatively so negative. Maybe they believe his budget choices reflect that they are a lower priority than, say, universal pre-school. Perhaps, they see in his rush to remove all troops from Iraq, and possibly adopt the “zero option” for Afghanistan as well, that he lacks the will the retain the benefits they sacrificed to win. It could be that his wishy-washy approach to Syria or his unwillingness to deter aggressors like Vladimir Putin concerns them and makes the potential for hostilities even greater. Or it could be that, like my colleague Jackson Diehl, they understand that the president via his secretary of state “thanks to a profound misreading of the realities  on the ground — was enabling the bad guys.”

How might the president improve his reputation among the troops, while doing himself some good with allies and foes alike on the world stage?

For one thing, the inexcusable and continual cutting of the defense budget should end. As we have pointed out, the president’s mealy-mouthed Quadrennial Defense Review should be redone to add some specific analysis of our threats and the recommended means of meeting those threats. Then the budget should be reprioritized to reflect the actual costs of defending U.S. interests.

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SOURCE: JENNIFER RUBIN 
The Washington Post

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