A rare phenomenon occurred on Capitol Hill the other day when two ranking officials of the
Retiring Secretary of Defense
Seldom has there been a more open confirmation of the old Harry Truman adage that "the buck stops here," at the desk of the president. Republican Sen.
It's nothing new that the man in the Oval Office has the final say in such matters. But it's customary for closest aides and lieutenants of the president to keep their opposition to themselves and go along. Mr. Panetta later told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "Obviously, there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president's decision to make [the assistance] nonlethal. And I supported his decision in the end."
Other less accommodating presidents — Lyndon
The caution also reflects the president's general disinclination to be drawn into another war or even any police action abroad as he strives to extricate American forces from
Those hearings have also raised public questions about the morality of the growing drone operation and allegations of indiscriminate killing of civilians, including the possible targeting of American citizens alleged to be engaged in
Ever since the decision of former President
In initially resisting participation in the ouster of dictator
At the same time, the American public has become more skeptical about official rationalizations for American involvements abroad, whatever the justifications, in the wake of the unforgotten U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In a Dec. 13, 2003 interview with
With the American response to remaining al-Qaida threats more focused now, public opinion at home has become more discriminating in terms of the cost in American lives and treasure expended to maintain U.S. leadership and responsibilities in a world of endless armed turmoil.
So it is reassuring that Truman's assertion that "the buck stops here" also remains as the place where a duly elected president decides how American military might is employed, and at what price to the American people no matter how much pressure is applied by those advising him.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "