Barack Obama and Critical Thinking

According to the New York Times today, President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan was the product of a painstaking process of deliberation, dialogue, reading, debate, and general critical analysis:

The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.” Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents. . . . He invited competing voices to debate in front of him, while guarding his own thoughts. Even David Axelrod, arguably his closest adviser, did not know where Mr. Obama would come out until just before Thanksgiving.

It’s so nice to have a President who respects the mind and reason, and who isn’t (as the former President used to boast) a “gut player.” Also, according to the Times, a book played a role in the decision making process:

Mr. Obama had read “Lessons in Disaster,” Gordon M. Goldstein’s book on the Vietnam War. The book had become a must read in the West Wing after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library to ask what he should be reading. Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic Communism and the domino theory — clearly driving the Obama advisers to rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Here’s the book at Amazon.

And see here for some more books that have influenced Obama.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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