Surprise many commentators expressed at the forceful decision-making President Obama demonstrated in the killing of Osama bin Laden reveals how low our expectations for presidents have sunk. Apparently, Obama’s thoughtful and thorough approach to policy-making had convinced some that he was incapable of quick and decisive action. But in a good leader, far from being mutually exclusive, the two skills--careful analysis and effective action--are mutually reinforcing.
This would seem a commonplace observation, but eight years of George Bush’s swagger has evidently obscured the point. By referring vital questions of policy to his “gut” and conducting international relations like schoolyard confrontation, Bush devalued intellectual inquiry and promoted ill-considered aggression as a form of statecraft. Most Americans were not pleased with the result, but sadly came to conclude they had to choose between thought and activity.
We don’t. President Obama is demonstrating the simple proposition that thinking things through leads to better outcomes. Sometimes that analysis is long, sometimes short, depending on what the situation calls for and allows. We may not agree with the resulting action, but at least we can have confidence in the process that underlies it.