Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Horns of a Dilemma

Jim DeRosa has a post up this morning A Great Society or a Great War. You Can't Have Both.

I too, have been thinking a lot about the weight of the decision President Obama is having to make. While President Obama was left with hundreds of tough problems by the preceding administration none are more critical to the future of what America will become than the lingering disasters of these two wars. Millions upon millions of people both here and there will have to live with the consequences of our next steps.

The always eloquent Bill Moyers had this to say about where we are:
BILL MOYERS: Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Aside from the fact that there are thousands, if not millions of lives at stake there is also a terrible political impact to the impending decision. There is a very strong likelihood that should President Obama choose to not escalate the conflict in Afghanistan and, in effect, walk away he will most likely be a one term president. If the President chooses, instead of war, the almost impossible domestic problems which he inherited, he will pay for it with his Presidency. The charges from the war mongers and wingnut right will be poisonous. He will be labeled as weak and unpatriotic. He will be accused of betraying our dead and casting aside all of the lives and treasure we have invested in these misguided wars and it will be relentless. Trust me, it won't matter one whit to the mouthbreathers if we move toward energy independence, reduce the deficit, enact health reform or any other of the myriad opportunities we have to improve life in America. The only thing that will matter is that Obama quit. It won't matter that it was fruitless to continue. It won't matter that we were crushing ourselves under mountains of debt for no reason. The only thing they will see is quitting which they will see a losing.

This is the choice President Obama faces and it is a mighty dilemma. Is there a way to end the quagmire that was deliberately left for him in Afghansitan and still serve two terms? I, for one, believe the choice should be to end our engagement in a conflict we cannot and never will win even it means a return to power of the right. As much as I hate the idea of a return to incompetence of the GOP I have come to the conclusion that we can't, as a nation, continue on our present course. Escalating the Afghanistan conflict will just amplify the disaster. Abandoning it will be the political ruin of Obama and the Democratic party. Withdrawing from Afghanistan will add high octane fuel to the efforts of the extreme right to tear this country apart. If you think the insanity displayed since the election has been spectacular just wait until they have this to batter the President with.

The sad thing is that President Obama will probably bow to the pressure and escalate in some fashion and, in effect, turn his back on the mountain of domestic problems we face. Thousands more American and Afghan lives will be sacrificed until someone comes along and makes the right decision. I just hope that if and when the escalation comes it is wrapped in clear and decisive terms with respect to goals and exit strategy. I think it is a mistake to kick the ball down the field one more time no matter how the process is defined but it will probably happen.

None of us should delude ourselves about the reasons either. Escalating the war in Afghanistan is strictly about politics and the President's desire to not be a one term President. It will be about not ceding political power to the extreme right in the next presidential election. We have been here before and to paraphrase Bill Moyers, it is "de ja vu all over again". President Obama is in the same position as President Johnson when it came to Vietnam. Johnson chose war out of political expediency even though he chose not to run for a second term. Would that President Obama take a lesson from that dilemma and the results of the wrong decision.

Those of you that have been coming around here for any length of time know how much I loathe the far right and what they have done and are doing to our country. As much as I hate to say it, I would rather see them return to power than see us spend any more lives and treasure in the pointless conflicts in the Middle East. It was a mistake in the beginning and it is even more of a mistake now. If ending this costs us a return to the fascism of the right then so be it.

Don't get me wrong. I do believe that we should be engaged in the world and especially the potential hell hole that could erupt in the Middle East. I just don't think we should be doing it with bombs and bullets. Pakistan is trouble squared and Iran could be as well. Palestine and Israel will ever be a sucking wound on the world until we settle the issue of the West Bank and settlements. Who knows what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan if we disengage militarily. We and many before us have proven conclusively that bombs and bullets don't work in Afghanistan and the same can be said for the rest. We can't ignore the hole but we should at least stop digging.

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