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.


David said…
Is the comment "dovish and isolationist" supposed to be an insult?

I say, if we live by the drone- we'll die by the drone.

The chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Jack Kimball, says that if Americans reelect Barack Obama, all the sacrifices made by our military will be “completely in vain.”:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m looking at what has happened. All that we treasure lost: people, the loss of life, people who are psychologically and physiologically damaged for life, the sacrifices of the families that supported them. All of this.

And I wonder what we did. Look at who we put in the White House. You think about that and we realize the profound responsibility that we have this time. In my view, if we reelect this man, all that all of the people fought and died for is completely in vain.

All who don't support these wing-nuts, take one step back.
Robert Cornwall said…
David, It wasn't meant as an insult, but a reminder that the GOP was on the other side of the issue when they're guy was in the WH. Now that a Democrat is in the WH now they're all of a sudden doves and isolationists!

Of course theyll always say -- do what the generals want. Obama ultimately looks as if he'll do what the generals want!
John said…
The Republican party has traditionally been dovish and isolationist. This doesn't mean there haven't been periods of aberration, such as when the Neo-Cons were in ascendancy.

Not only that, America is by tradition isolationist - we pride ourselves on remaining aloof from the violent controversies which rage in Europe and elsewhere.

So I am not all that surprised to see isolationism come to the fore once again.

Frankly, I thought we should have pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan years ago. We are not the nation to fix these places and our presence does little good in the long run. Mostly we just kill their people and they kill ours.

We cannot build nations. Only their citizens can do that. We can help, but we cannot be the policeman and we cannot mid-wife the process. We become too vested (or appear to become too vested) in one political subgroup or the other, we get played, and we get shot at. And, at the end of the day, there is no payoff, no reward, no medal - not from their people and not from our own.

All those lives and all that treasure was lost and bound to be lost, when we first set foot into those countries with a mission beyond taking down our enemies. To propose that there was a way to make all those deaths which have occurred since worth it is an awful big promise, which in Iraq and Afghanistan, cannot be kept.

While I am dovish, I am not isolationist. I just don't see any benefit to risking our children's lives in the battle between political factions in other nations. Using our children to fight on behalf of a dictator or a warlord is not wise leadership and it is not in any way shape or form consistent with American values.
Robert Cornwall said…
As I noted in the post, I opposed the wars from the beginning, but once in, and having done damage to these nations (especially in Iraq) we were sort of beholden to stay the course.

What I find interesting about the current GOP field (minus McCain) is that these were the same ones charging Obama with "cutting and running." Well, who wants to cut and run now?

And they were the ones who said -- listen to the generals. Obama is listening to the generals -- so that's a bad thing.

Of course, and here's my point, politics is never about consistency. You make compromises and you change course once in office. That's a reality. It's one reason why I never followed my dream of being a politician!!
David said…
Being a good example is cheap and effective. We screwed that up big time. We were caught drunk on power and fell squarely into their trap.

I hope our war machine investors are satisfied with their returns so far.
Brian said…
I think David's last post cuts to the heart of the matter. Wars are about profit for the military-industrial complex. I know this sounds like an undergrad cliche, but I think it is true. Andrew Bacevich's WASHINGTON RULES does a good job of making this case. He shows a thread in foreign policy from the administrations of Truman through Obama.

On a similar note, Naomi Klein's SHOCK DOCTRINE makes a strong case (in my opinion) that the powers at work in the world are invested in "disaster capitalism". Put the two together and you have the same basic people profiting off of the destruction of war plus the rebuilding.

"Paul" was right when he taught that our fight is not against flesh and bone (war), but against rulers and powers (systems).

I'm glad most readers of Bob's blog are for transforming the world into garden of peace.
David said…
"I'm glad most readers of Bob's blog are for transforming the world into garden of peace."

Very optimistic. Many don't seem to think it's their call.

I have a sense of humor in most things. NOT when my money is used for (sloppy or otherwise) executions by remote control because some think only "civilized" humans are worthy of human rights. If we haven't sinned in these areas, I don't know what sin is.
David said…

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