Friday, December 04, 2009

Tahoe Ticker Column 17 – Obama and Afghanistan

I've watched with interest the reaction to President Obama's decision to initiate an Iraq-type surge in Afghanistan and to set a timetable for withdrawal. The Right seems to have no problem with the surge, but doesn't like the timetable – I guess because Bush didn't like it in the Iraq surge, or maybe, like bowing to the Japanese Emperor, Dick Cheney thinks it's a sign of weakness.

The Left, on the other hand, has no problem with the timetable, it's the surge they hate. In a blog post on, Garry Wills wrote a sad and impassioned statement of deep disappointment and disaffection with the President, ending by saying that while he'd never vote for a Republican, he won't give one more cent or one shred of support to Obama in the future.

Obama said in his campaign that, while he thought Iraq was the wrong war, he would expand the war in Afghanistan. He then studied the problem for 8 months and made a decision that he would, in fact, do that. He feels, rightly or wrongly, that this is essential to America's security. I don't think I agree, and I don't think the surge will do much vis-à-vis Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, but I can see what his thinking might be – if he just pulled out of Af/Pak and then there was another attack emanating from there, he would have to wonder. If the surge doesn't work, at least he will have done what he could.

I have to wonder who the anti-surge folks think they voted for – maybe Gandhi? Martin Luther King? Those heroes weren't liberals – they were radicals. They wanted to change their society at the root – what in business circles is called culture change. Obama is a liberal in the tradition of JFK. When Kennedy accepted the Liberal Party nomination in New York he said, in part:

if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

That's who Obama is. He is out to break through the Conservative thinking and governing that puts the welfare of the rich and big corporations ahead of that of the people, and who believes, in the words of another Massachusetts liberal, that "politics is the art of the possible" (Tip O'Neill). In other words, he would rather have less than perfect health reform that will be enacted than to be right about insisting on a perfect plan (as the Clintons did) that will not pass and leave us in a worse mess than we're in. Similarly with the war, he won't risk the "perfect" course of immediate withdrawal – he'll try the less than perfect plan of the surge and timetable.

I yield to no one in my opposition to unnecessary wars, and I don't know if this war was necessary or not – I think it probably was – and I support this President. He thinks, he listens, and in the end he has the terrible responsibility of doing what he thinks is right, knowing that "the buck stops here." To my radical friends, I say "get over it." You don't get to be governed by the president you want, you are governed by the president you elected.

1 comment:

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