War Weariness and a President's Speech
Tonight the President will address the nation and give us some sense of what comes next in Afghanistan. After nearly ten years of military presence in Afghanistan and eight in Iraq, Americans are legitimately weary and restless. Back in 2003 I wrote letters to my Senators calling for them to not support entry into war in Iraq, feeling that there was little justification for it and seeing it as a distraction from the war in Afghanistan, which from the very beginning had left me with a great deal of discomfort. Now, nearly ten years after 9-11 and with Osama bin Laden dead, many wonder whether the time has come to bring the troops home and devote our money and energy to rebuilding America. In this sentiment I'm largely in agreement.
I have to say, however, that I find the recent dovish and isolationist streak among Republicans both puzzling and hypocritical. Many of those who are calling for withdrawal now blasted the President for his discomfort with/opposition to the surge. Many Republicans who tend to be hawks when Republicans control the White House now condemn the President for engaging in actions begun by a Republican President and which Republicans largely supported (Ron Paul being the exception).
Is it time to come home? Probably. But as we think about coming home, let us remember that we will likely leave in place situations that are far from secure. In Iraq, where the draw down has already begun and combat forces are largely home, there are many who are less secure now than before -- this is especially true of the Christian minority.
So, what will happen tonight? I really can't say. But it does seem that the President now has breathing room to fulfill his promises to reduce our footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, now that the Republican Presidential candidates have left behind their hawkish ways (at least for the moment), they can't complain if the President brings our involvement closer to an end.
Something for Americans to consider however. Whether you are dovish or hawkish, an American exceptionalist or not, it is impossible for this nation to disengage from the world. This isn't 1920. Indeed, this isn't 1800. We live in a global society and so isolationism is impossible. Just to give you an example. The Greek debt crisis. Greece has 11 million people, fewer than live in Illinois. I doubt its economy is bigger than Illinois's as well, but fears about the possibility that they would default on their debt sends shivers down the stock markets. We can't go it alone any more.
So, are we ready for what happens next? Are we ready to live at peace in a globalized world? What will that take? One speech won't change the dynamics, but maybe it can start a conversation.