President Obama at West Point, Courtesy Getty Images
Photo by AP/Charles Dharapak
There are those who suggest Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history.
—President Obama, at West Point outlining his Afghanistan decision
I think the history of Vietnam and the history of war more broadly teaches us [that] when statesmen choose war, they really are simply rolling the dice. They have no idea of what numbers are going to come up. And their ability to predict, control, direct the outcome tends to be extremely precarious. So from my point of view, the President has drawn the wrong lessons from his understanding of the history of war.
— Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and a Vietnam war veteran who spent twenty-three years in the US Army, also a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and the author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
Courtesy of the US Department of Defense
With President Obama’s recent decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan I feel we’re in for some very tough times (and not for the obvious reasons):
My two reasons: he is on the road to losing his progressive base, especially with his Afghanistan decision, and the consequent prospect of growing cynicism. Second, if one of his major policies fail—Afghanistan or the economy or maybe health care—the right will be boosted, and with this, the rise again of that dreaded monster: the fundamentalist right, Neo-cons big time, making Bush Jr. look like The Right Light (and Bush Senior, a liberal).
By which I mean: Mr. Obama’s decision to send more “troops,” which is euphemeze for young men and women to possibly die, is dire indeed, signaling his entrapment in the Old Think, the antiquated paradigm, the notion that war is the road to success, along with his pumping up the financial industry and not strongly and effectively fighting the medical industry. All this suggests he is not an agent of change, as promised, as prayed for, not the answer to our—the progressive’s—prayers, but in fact he represents retrenchment, entrapment, held in a deathly grip by misguided policy and the power of the shadow government, as represented most recently by Cheney—Bush Jr. et al. A moral and political wimp who lacks the courage to fight the powers—no Profiles in Courage here.
No. 1, the loss of his progressive base, that subset of Americana that included some of my erstwhile family and close friends, campaigning for him (with a shadow of a doubt), as he careens along the path to disaster.
No. 2, the slow and “progressive” rise among the radical right, which includes the Neo cons of the Bush and Clinton eras, the Christian fundamentalists, the power chieftains of the main industries, and those who vote against their interests while seduced by talk of the country going to hell with the current administration.
Paradoxically, this story is not primarily about Mr. Obama—it is about his context, our political context, the context that included those who assassinated truly courageous leaders like John Kennedy, his brother, Robert, Dr King and Malcolm X. We are misled if we focus on who currently is apparently in power: the power lies elsewhere. It lies in tradition—all the way back to the founding of this country in the violence of the American Revolution, the enslavement of Africans, the genocide of American Indians, the settling of regional differences with the Civil War during which President Lincoln apparently spoke against the then nascent military-industrial complex and receiving a major push after the conclusion of the Second World War and the concomitant Cold War. Former general and then President Eisenhower famously prophetically warned: beware the rise of the military-industrial complex, now more accurately termed the military-industrial-educational-media-intelligence-security complex. It is this system that has now wrapped Mr. Obama’s tightly in its arms, with the unwitting support of much of the citizenry of this once great nation.
Does President Obama’s decision to add at least 30,000 more young men and women into the growing debacle of Afghanistan signal another step along the long road to fascism? Or the short road? Am I being alarmist? Cynical? Should I be more trusting, supportive, keep the faith in the Obama story, declare it not a fantasy, work to make it a reality? Influence him to actually earn the Nobel Peace Prize?
Is Dracula among us, not in the form of a person but as a system, a perspective, a paradigm: war the solution. That incarnation of seduction and evil, unable to die: Dracula as the force that makes disaster likely, the end of empire? Unless wisdom, courage, and resistance grow. From our official leadership? Not likely. From the people? Possibly.
The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference.
—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel