You cannot make this stuff up. But apparently Jay Carney can:
…Carney [was asked] to respond to a criticism of the president leveled by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) who said he was “disappointed” with Obama’s seeming indecisiveness on whether or not to pursue military strikes in Syria…
“I would simply say that, when it comes to being commander-in-chief, I think the American people, at least in my assessment, appreciate a commander-in-chief who takes in new information and doesn’t, you know, celebrate decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness,” Carney added.
Implicit in Carney’s statement is the notion that George Bush—the favorite bête noire of the Obama administration—did “celebrate decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness” rather than for the content of his decisions. The statement is not only another insult to Bush in a long line of them—and another attempt to defend Obama by contrasting him with some strawman characteristic of his predecessor—but it is logically absurd.
Even if Bush had “celebrated decisiveness for the sake of decisiveness,” that still would not mean that anyone should appreciate (or celebrate) indecisiveness in his successor, especially in the role of commander-in-chief. Dithering, backtracking, meandering, reversing, contradicting, and failing to decide much of anything sends a message of extreme weakness that can only be damaging— and which other more decisive foreign leaders are likely to use to their advantage.
Carney’s pernicious sophistry (and Obama) aside, the more general question of the value of decisiveness versus indecisiveness can be looked at in terms of Isaiah Berlin’s old fox-hedgehog quandary:
There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defense. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance-and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle…
Hedgehogs tend to be decisive due to their unity of vision and purpose. Foxes tend to shift and waver, and yet often like to tout their own superiority (remember “nuance”?), much as Carney does with Obama (who may or may not actually be a fox) here.
While it’s true that commanders-in-chief need to be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances, they cannot be indecisive foxes if they want to successfully convey the right message to opponents for whom indecisiveness signals a vulnerability ripe for exploitation.
[Hat tip: Ace of Spades.]