Monday, July 20, 2009

game changer

The other night on Charlie Rose, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, spoke with Charlie for about 35 minutes, no commercials of course since this was on PBS. Woodward has written great books in the last few years. Four dealing with post 9/11 issues, Afghanistan and Iraq. Woodward searches for the game changer; the event or crisis that will change President Obama’s “center of gravity” as he called it. Woodward cannot explain Obama’s center of gravity just yet: that set of values or something that defines him and stays steady in the face of decisions and events. Woodward wants to stay on top of things so he says he’s currently writing about five or six big things to cover the bases. One of the stories, healthcare seems to be something he thinks is central to current politics but it’s not interesting enough in his opinion to draw readers. In search of the game changer.

The term makes me a bit uncomfortable for number of reasons but I suppose it’s something people need to think through and prepare for in a strange but pragmatic way. Example of a game-changer: 9/11. As if foreign policy and national politics is a game? Example of a possible game changer: Iraq acquires nuclear weapons.

I think the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 sometimes serve as a blaming point for events since. Great room for debate on that. I believe that the US government chose what they chose. They chose to invade Afghanistan. Chose to invade Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. We made those choices in the end. No one forced our hand.

So, while some search for a game changer, I look for trends that could change the President’s view of the world. Conditions that may motivate him to commit resources of some sort into a campaign, an adventure, a quest. But given the incredible tired military we possess, stretched over the years, in a collective state of post-traumatic stress, I doubt that if any adventure presents itself of a military nature, it will not be a ground force foray.

This is a President who appreciates but I think overly studies the numbers. He calculates things and looks for a great amount of consultation before his decisions. His exudes confidence and calm, but has a fire I think that may not be fun to cross behind closed doors. Such is the stuff of leaders these days. Outwardly thoughtful, but very focused and willful.

If anything catches Obama unawares, I predict it will be a domestic issue such as illegal immigration from the South. An issue, a conflict that will appear to be a cross between an insurgency, a foreign government’s demise, a stand by citizens that could force him to make some tough choices. As States continue to lose revenue and go bankrupt, I believe the States will petition Washington at a time when Washington cannot pay.

Woodward looks for the game changer. I look for the opportunity. Woodward should know that the United States is too complex and large, diverse and expansive, to change. 9/11 wasn’t a game changer. 9/11 was an opportunity following a disaster.

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