Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama Is the Enemy Now

The Afghanistan War is not and never has been “a war of necessity,” as Barack Obama has claimed. By now, it is not a “a war of choice” either. It’s a pointless, inexorable, nightmare.

In the beginning, the Afghanistan War was arguably less pointless. It was a war of revenge. Too bad that it was fought mainly against the wrong target, against ordinary Afghanis, not “terrorists” or their protectors. Those pesky terrorists were just too hard to round up and kill. Most of them weren’t even in Afghanistan, even then. Still, back in the day when George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld set the moral compass, revenge was the best revenge.

As a legal scholar and reader of Euripides, Obama should know that revenge is a motive that civilized societies are supposed to rise above. But never mind: after 9/11, there was not holding back the Furies. Never mind too whether Osama bin Laden might have been captured “dead or alive” years ago but for the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-neocon obsession with Iraq. The fact is that the Afghanistan War could never have been “won” in any plausible sense, and it certainly can’t be won now. If history teaches anything, it is that occupations breed resistance, not acquiescence. And if, say, the history of the Vietnam War is no guide (as apologists for escalation have lately been proclaiming), then surely common sense is. Put enough troops on the ground and, of course, the level of violence will diminish while they are there. But even if our economy were not wrecked, and even if the Home of the Brave was not already war-weary, it would be impossible to keep enough troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. Eventually, Obama’s “exit strategy,” whatever it may be, is bound to give way to the only sensible exit strategy there is: cut and run. The question is only whether that day will come sooner or later, and how much more murder and mayhem there must be before it arrives.

The sad fact is that Obama knows this at some level; and so do his advisors and all but the most deluded Democrats in Congress. Maybe even some Republicans know it too, if there are any sane ones left. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever “it” is, we’ll be there for as long as “it” takes. Why? Because we must “support the troops,” of course; in other words, because we’re there.

Is it that Obama is the prisoner of remarks he made about Afghanistan during the campaign? According to the conventional wisdom, he had to say that he was gung-ho for that war in order to show that, despite his opposition to Bush’s Iraq War, he’s no sissy; that, as well or better than Hillary Clinton, he could play Commander-in-Chief. [It is worth noting that, despite Obama’s supposed opposition, the occupation of Iraq continues unabated!]

Or maybe the problem is that Obama is the prisoner of forces in the military, the Petreuses and McChrystals and their demented ilk, who, having come of age as Vietnam was sputtering out of control, are aching for a chance to get “counterinsurgency” right?

Or is it, as many on the left now believe, that Obama is afraid of the right? Fear of the right is now the favored explanation for why Kennedy and Johnson did their own Afghanistan thing in Vietnam. Why not Obama too?

Or perhaps it’s the Nixon-Kissinger preoccupation with “credibility.” After all, a successful bully can never just walk away. I favor this explanation, though the correct answer is probably “all of the above” and then some.

I think credibility is the main culprit because I believe that Obama is nothing if not foolishly consistent. Our vaunted agent of “change,” has proven himself a good steward of the interests of the powers that be: not just on Wall Street but in the corporate boardrooms of health-care profiteers, reckless polluters, and wherever else contributions for Democrats lie waiting. Surely Obama would not treat those who benefit egregiously from U.S. world domination and perpetual war differently.

But whatever the reason, one thing is clear – that for many months many Americans were in the thrall of an illusion. Remember how all the Clintonites and Wall Streeters Obama brought into his administration were there only for their expertise, and how Obama, from his perch on Mount Olympus, would use them to promote the changes people thought they’d voted for? Can anyone be so deluded any longer? The problem isn’t just Obama’s needlessly excessive servility. It’s worse than that. Bush’s wars didn’t have to become Obama’s wars; not with all the political capital he had to squander. But they are Obama’s wars now. Thus the great non-white hope of the willfully blind months ago has become, for all to see, the enemy today.

It never made sense to cut Obama endless slack, but it surely makes no sense now that he has proven himself an enemy, not an agent, of “change.” Obama is no savior. He’s not even part of the solution -- not now, anyway. Can it still be made otherwise? Hope fades fast but, to the extent it still survives, there is only one way: fighting back. Militance is again abroad in the land – witness the building occupations at University of California and Cal State campuses and the demonstrations marking the anniversary of the Battle of Seattle. The time is past due to make Obama and his wars its target. Gentle lesser evilists will just have to deal with it! There is no other way.

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