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Who Really Runs Obama’s Policy?

Author: Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies
September 18, 2014
Wall Street Journal

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Barack Obama's handling of national-security issues is so widely seen as weak and ineffectual that we risk losing sight of something important: the strong personal stamp he has put on his administration's choices.

Presidents who launch retrenchment after stalemated wars always do so by centralizing control in the White House and imposing their own policy concepts. They do so because they mistrust the bureaucracy, resist Congress, and resent the media.

Through almost six years as president, Mr. Obama has frequently dealt with advisers counseling a different course. But he rarely defers to them. When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told Congress this week that down the road "boots on the ground" may be needed in Iraq, he wasn't changing policy. The president made that clear to a military audience the next day. Would he send ground troops to Iraq? His answer in brief: "I won't." As Julian E. Barnes and Carol E. Lee reported in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, Mr. Obama aims at strict day-to-day control of all operations.

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