ISIS Is a Test of Leadership. Real Leadership.

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From Ron Fournier, writing about President Obama and the threat of ISIS:

A columnist should never admit uncertainty, but here’s mine: I’m not ready to side with the hawks or the doves.

It’s conventional wisdom that columnists should always be self-assured. But can someone explain why? I know that sounds naive, but seriously. Why? Why should opinion mongers be expected to have firm, considered, immediate views on every possible subject? I get that nobody wants to read someone who dithers about everything, but shouldn’t we be equally suspicious of those who somehow manage to cobble together unflinching insta-opinions about everything under the sun?

In any case, Fournier is making the—obvious?—point that there’s nothing wrong with Obama taking time to figure out what to do about ISIS. That’s doubly true since he’s working in the shadow of the lies and incompetence that brought us the Iraq war:

President Obama is a living reflection of this psychological context. Uncertain and contradictory, Obama is grasping for the right mix of hawk and dove to rally Americans, unite the world, and confront ISIS without locking the United States into another unholy mess.

God bless him. It’s a hellish task. Obama’s lack of clarity so far has drawn criticism from the across the political spectrum, including from me (here and here). Two loyal readers remind me by email, and for different reasons, that Obama needs time to get this right.

Yes indeed. Sometimes you have to make a fast decision, even if you have limited knowledge. That’s life. But other times you don’t, and you’d be foolish to lock yourself into a decision when you have time to collect more intelligence. This is the true lesson of leadership: Make decisions as fast as possible, but no faster. That’s what Obama is doing.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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