Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama: War and Peace

Next week Barack Obama will announce he is sending tens of thousands more troops to fight in Afghanistan as he prepares ten days later to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.

This juxtaposition raises questions about the "new climate in international politics" for which the Nobel Committee has cited him, observing, "Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts."

But such instruments will not work against those committed to fight a Holy War to the death, and the President now says he "will finish the job" of what he deems "a necessary war" with some yet-to-be-disclosed combination of diplomatic and civilian efforts as well as military force.

When he tells the American people exactly how next Tuesday night, he will be facing a public that is deeply divided about the war. No matter how skillfully Barack Obama explains his decision, an older generation will be thinking of Lyndon Johnson and the war in Vietnam.

Bill Moyers, who worked in the White House back then, speaks for all of us:

"(O)nce 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."

LBJ never won a Nobel Peace Prize and left office a broken man. In a new century, Barack Obama can learn much from his fate and write a different ending to the story.

2 comments:

Holte Ender said...

I am disappointed, even before Obama makes his Tuesday night speech, I don't think he could say anything that would reverse my feelings. The 12 century men will still be in Afghanistan long after we have gone, still peddling opium to the highest bidder, still bribing their way through life. The Industrial Military Complex wins again.

Serious Implications said...

Obama's decision has to viewed in context of a nuclear-armed Pakistan. It sounds like the old "domino theory," but this time it may be real.