Aided by a spate of accounts by ex-officials, from Hillary Clinton to Robert Gates to Leon Panetta and others, an image has formed around President Obama that he is hesitant and indecisive, and that he does not like to schmooze the nation's lawmakers. Moreover, that he is too lawyerly and cerebral, and that he lacks the "passion" of a leader. Such a strong consensus has jelled around this image that it is unlikely to change much between now and the end of the Obama Presidency. Although his decision not to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons was the right one, and supported by the American people, it meant breaking his unfortunate commitment to do so, and this has been at the root of his loss of credibility.
More lately, the criticism surrounding the President's leadership has extended to comparing him to Jimmy Carter. This would seem out of place considering that Carter presided over one of the most shameful episodes in American military history - the Iranian hostage rescue mission of April 1980 -- and Obama over one of the most brilliant ones - the taking down of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Ironically, both these operations revolved around the required number of helicopters. As I wrote in an earlier blog quoting a member of the hostage rescue mission force: instead of calling off the operation, "a daring commander in wartime could have and would have continued with five or even four helicopters." In the bin Laden operation, the military commander, Admiral William McRaven, faced with the forced landing and the loss of a helicopter at the very start of the attack, calmly assured the President that the problem would be taken care of and the plan should be carried forward. (It was Obama the risk-taker who had given the go-ahead for the operation, against the advice of some of his more senior advisers, who wanted to wait to make sure that bin Laden was in the compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan).
In his sly memoir, Panetta, while praising the bin Laden operation and generally Obama's first term, states that in the second term Obama has "lost his way" - while at the same time expressing the hope that the second term will turn out to be a success.
In 2014, faced with the sudden Isis capture of Mosul and its threatening march toward Baghdad, President Obama acted swiftly and decisively, assembly a coalition of moderate Sunni states against Isis and naming a respected ex-military officer, Gen. John Allen, to oversee the campaign. Much of Obama's legacy as a President will depend on the outcome of this war against Isis.