Posts Tagged ‘Bush’

“I am not opposed to all wars; I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
then-candidate Barack Obama, March 26, 2008
ObamaAfghanistan is a war which we didn’t start but which we will end. We have twenty months (more or less) to do so. Before we end it, we will provide a surge to counter the insurgency. This will be done in full view of absolutely everybody. This is not done lightly but with the security of the United States in mind. We will secure key areas (not deeply rural areas because we can’t; no one can) against the Taliban as we  train and grow the Afghan Army. Yes, we are forced to count on support from a deeply corrupt government, but we will hold that government accountable. We will not send them money directly but instead will fund local leaders, build up local miltia and convert former insurgents. We cannot send troops uninvited into Pakistan, where we know Al Qaeda is most active and where the nuclear arsenal is less than secure, but we will be close by. We will try to cut off any nascent partnership between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and prevent new alliances from growing. Most importantly, we will convince ordinary Afghans that we are there to help them take their country back and then move it forward. This is at the heart of any lasting success.
War is hell. It’s also either strategic, unavoidable, inevitable, unwinnable, manageable, practical, essential — or dumb. What have we here?

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For some people, the world after 9/11 became black and white but I suspect that for those people the world was always black and white – good versus evil, right or wrong, you’re with us or you’re against us. You define your enemies, maybe expand that definition a little and turn your back. There is no room for discussion and no room for compromise and certainly no room for new information. It’s a frighteningly simplistic worldview and this week it was depressingly on display.

As has been reported (over and over) in the news, President Bush warned against “appeasing terrorists” in a speech in front of Israel’s parliament, which surely doesn’t need such reminders. The comments seemed directed at Candidate Barak Obama and his pledge to meet with a variety of leaders, a charge the White House denies (though the people who write and vet the President’s speeches give some thought to how their words will be heard, even if the President himself doesn’t). Obama has been accused by members of the Republican party (and by his rival Hillary Clinton) of being “naive” for imagining that he could actually have discussion with leaders who have made verbal threats against the U.S. and its allies. 

Obama was ready to return fire, reminding anyone who would listen that he has been talking all along of practicing diplomacy, an approach that was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, at least until recently. He might have added that we talked with the leaders of the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, though they created some of the most creatively inflammatory language in calling for our destruction. Then again, the U.S. came up with “The Red Menace” to describe the threat of the spread of Communism, complete with our own marketing materials.

The hypocrisy of the President’s outburst and the other candidates’ insistence that we can’t talk with Iran and Syria is especially galling when we are treated to the sight of the President of the United States begging Saudi Arabian leaders to please produce more oil so the United States can get some relief. Saudi Arabia, we seem to be required to repeat endlessly, was home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers – “terrorists” if you will  – who flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Some terrorists are more equal than others apparently.

A few years ago, I attended a conference in Spain sponsored by Club de Madrid, an international organization of retired world leaders and others to discuss democracy, terrorism and security. There were any number of specific issues addressed, including those related to international cooperation but the one thing on which all participants agreed was that there is no justification for terrorism, which was defined as the targeting of civilians and non-combatants through intimidation and deadly acts of violence. The behavior as defined could include a host of countries the U.S. already considers allies, but we won’t get into that now. It should be obvious that this country can, in theory, make that message the cornerstone of our foreign policy – that we can reject terrorism without rejecting diplomacy.

On another note, Mike Huckabee, the apparently affable preacher, one-time Presidential aspirant and rumored Vice-Presidental candidate, showed his true colors with an off-center remark about a sharp noise that disrupted his speech to the National Rifle Association. He commented that it was Barak Obama tipping over and diving under a chair after someone pointed a gun at him. I hope I don’t sound too PC here but that was so not funny.



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