Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear President Obama: No Drama Decisions

I am the mother of a U.S. Marine who flies as part of a helicopter crew in southern Helmand Province. You can imagine that this morning was a tense one for us, as we wondered.

It was not aided by news of the riot in Kabul. And as I watched the news footage, I thought of you and your upcoming decision.

I hope that you will let me share my thoughts with you.

Although I have emotions just like any human being, I run my decisions on logic and data.

First: despite the drama and pain of today’s loss, I remind myself that there have been hundreds, thousands of helicopter flights which have taken off and landed safely. The few dangerous incidents that happen cannot be allowed to override the vast majority of safely executed missions.

Second, I would not let Americans who get worked up about the riot in Kabul (perhaps thinking that “they” want us out so we should get out) influence my decision either. A thousand students protesting in Kabul is just that: people expressing their feelings. They have a right. Even if they were manipulated into doing it. That doesn't mean it should drive your decision.

While students express their opinions with more passion and volatility than many older people…let us not forget that students in Kabul may be influenced by forces not felt by elsewhere in the world. People in Afghanistan live side by side with Taliban believers, and their actions may therefore be more vulnerable to family members or themselves being in threatened.

This is not to say that I disrespect their right to voice the opinions they are expressing. As an American who believes in free speech, I support their right to express their opinion. If someone burned a bible, lots of folks in these parts would be upset - even if it wasn't true.

This is also not to say that I don’t believe they mean their protests. For heaven’s sake…Americans have hurt one another over their political and religious differences! Some Americans feel passionately that you’re doing a bad job. So I wouldn’t worry about another group having that opinion.

The truth is, Mr. President, that I don’t believe that you (or Mrs. Obama, who I admire) have ever done things because someone told you to. I believe you are one of those rare individuals who have the strength of their convictions and are not afraid to make decisions based on your personal popularity. And while I know you are a Democrat, and therefore have party loyalties - and obligations? - I do not believe that you succumb to that terribly dangerous partisanship of ‘party first’ – that too many elected officials practice, which is insidious at tearing away the work that good people try to do.

I believe that you will make your decision based on what you truly believe is the best thing for our country, our soldiers, and the peace of the world...not based on how it would affect your ability to be re-elected.

So, President Obama, while you grieve at the crashes of today, as you do every day we lose a not let the painful drama of today overwhelm the data and logic of your best advisors. Listen to all of them. Develop a strategy that will accomplish good work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and other places in the world.

And do not fear.

Do not make your decisions based on fear.

When my son said he was joining the Marines, I cried. Now, there, he is proud of helping both American and NATO soldiers, the Afghan people to whom he has delivered grain, and the Afghan soldiers with whom he has flown.

Am I scared? Sure. Every day. And every day, I remind myself to choose not to give in to that.

President Obama, you came into office during one of the two worst financial disasters our country has ever faced, with health care looming as a disaster both financially and management-wise right behind that.

At the end of this term in office, you’re facing the 12/21/2012 predictions. I think it’s hogwash; but I’d be planning some major craziness-control to deal with the folks who decide to use that date for their personal agendas.

I mean…really. With those bookends, you might as well just do what you want. I mean, you’ve got so much stacked against you that you might as well throw away the memo about how to protect your reputation, and just be strong.

You’ve just got to do your job. No matter what you do, half the country will oppose it.

You’re not perfect. But I believe you’re intelligent enough and responsible enough and caring enough - and courageous enough - to find the best possible course through this.

You’re welcome to read the blog I wrote on October 16 on to see my thoughts on increasing troops. Just do it with wise strategy. I believe you will.

I think that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda must not be allowed to run the world through fear. Don’t you be afraid to do what you believe should be done. Ever.

I don't think you will.

Our hearts and prayers to the people who lost someone they love.

Katie Aiken Ritter

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