Monday, September 9, 2013

Clarity Causes Commitment

President Obama has not been clear or consistent regarding his goals and policy about Syria and his nation is confused. Clarity causes commitment, while lack of clarity causes doubt. 

When Syria disintegrated into civil war, the President said it wasn't important enough to act. Most people agreed because the majority of people are war weary and Syria doesn't appear to be a threat to our national security. The President took office vowing to get the country out of war in order to focus on domestic issues, so he would be in no hurry to get into another war.

Throughout the crisis in Syria, some U.S. leaders have suggested that the time is right to help remove the Assad regime, in order to weaken Hezbollah and their state sponsor Iran. These leaders have not been able to generate sufficient support from their constituents with this strategic narrative.

The use of chemical weapons forced the President into a leadership dilemma. Having once said that Syria was a distraction, Obama now needed support to act. He had changed his mind, which for most people isn't a big deal or considered a sign of weakness. But for a President, a sudden drastic change in position creates confusion. The great majority of people don't know the President, but most people support his political platform. Now that his platform has shifted, his constituents have some major concerns that Obama hadn’t anticipated.

Obama’s political foes are going to wring promises out of him for his support. His long time supporters are going to doubt him in the future and other world leaders are going to use his hesitation for their benefit.

The President has created his own no win scenario.

This is a classic case of a leader without a strategy being forced to react to a situation without clear objectives, and conviction. As the saying goes, "he wasn't strong enough to lead and he was too weak to follow."

It will be a difficult week for the President as a leader is crisis. Most leaders earn their legacy based upon their poise in crisis and President Obama's choices this week will be remembered for decades to come.

Leaders must understand what they are trying to cause, and why. They must then own the consequences of their actions and inactions, including intended results (and unintended results) in order to convince smart people to support them in crisis and make the necessary sacrifices to succeed.

by Mike Nally

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