Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, wrote in his memoir "Duty" that seeing the wounded and attending funerals took such an emotional toll that he had to resign. Critics see another effect. Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama has become increasingly unwilling to commit troops to wars in places like Libya, Syria and Iraq.Eliot A. Cohen, an official in the George W. Bush administration who is now professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, said that Mr. Obama's trips to Walter Reed may have been the reason, and that future presidents should avoid the visits."A president has to be psychologically prepared to send people into harm's way and to get a good night's sleep," Mr. Cohen said. "And anything they do that might cripple them that way means they're not doing their job."
President Obama made his 23rd visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this week, and given how little time remains in his second term, it was likely the last time Obama will spend several hours visiting with wounded servicemen and women who've returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.A New York Times report on this noted that Obama considers meeting with the wounded and their families to be "among the most sacred duties of his presidency. He rarely talks about his trips to Walter Reed, but his aides say that they have affected him deeply."That's not at all surprising. What was surprising was seeing someone criticize this on the record.
I've seen the president criticized for all sorts of strange reasons over the last eight years, but I'll admit, it never occurred to me Obama would be encouraged to spend less time visiting with injured troops and their families.It's quite an argument, isn't it? Eliot Cohen wants presidents to find it easier to deploy troops into wars, and if presidents see injured American servicemen and women, they may think twice before launching a military offensive. Ergo, Commanders in Chief would be wise to simply avoid visiting Walter Reed, even if that means ignoring wounded troops and their families.Well then.For those unfamiliar with Cohen, Mother Jones noted earlier this year that Cohen was a prominent member of the Project for a New American Century, "an early-2000s group of neconservatives who pushed for big increases in defense spending, more American military intervention abroad, regime change in Iraq, and other policies that became Bush administration staples." (During the Republican presidential primaries, he was also a member of Marco Rubio's “Neocon Dream Team.”)With a track record like his, one might expect Cohen to keep his opinions about wars and national security to himself. Alas, he isn't.