Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mr. Obama's Unique War

Note: the "final" version of this posting appeared November 27 in The Huffington Post.

President Obama's war in Afghanistan is, from a historical perspective, unique.

That's because what he's saying to the American public about this conflict is a clean break with how the White House has "explained" most past US overseas military engagements.

If we accept the arguments of Professor Susan A. Brewer in her recently published Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq, our 44th Commander in Chief's public handling of our commitment to the Central Asian "graveyard of empires" is an exception to a recurrrent pattern of the past: that US leaders since President McKinley have in fact sold foreign wars to Americans through propaganda -- “the deliberate manipulation of facts, ideas, and lies," as she defines it.

Instead of the crude, obscenely packaged fabrications used by his predecessor to mislead us into the war in Iraq, Obama's deliberations on a military escalation in Afghanistan have been marked by officially announced doubts about why we should engage more soldiers in that part of the world in the first place; by leaks from the principals involved, so many of whom disagree with one another; and, from a narrow PR perspective, by an unwillingness (some would call it a failure) to craft a clear, simple message of "why we should fight" in a little-known land thousands of miles from our shores. Moreover, the USG "public diplomacy" to persuade allies to join the Pentagon's planned additional troop deployment in Afghanistan has, thus far, been minimal.

It will be interesting to see how, after all his months of "dithering" (as former vice president Richard Cheney calls it) about his "war of necessity," Mr. Obama will justify his war (and yes, it is his war now) in the address he'll reportedly make on Tuesday at West Point.

My guess is that he'll continue, intellectual that he is, to avoid surface slogans and simplifications (e.g., Bush-like "us against them" mindless cheerleading) but that, cautious lawyer that he also is, he'll try to persuade us "logically" that the only way for our troops eventually to leave Afghanistan is for more of them to become involved in that 'country's rebuilding' (i.e., get killed for Allah/God/Jehovah knows why).

In other words, the "we-are-getting-in-to-get-out" argument. Let's see how Mr. Obama's Harvard Law School degree will help him justify that sophistic logic.

True, there are many precedents for presidential oxymorons -- take Woodrow Wilson's "the war to end all wars," for example.

But still, the "we-do-it-to-avoid-it" oxymoronic assertion is a hard one to back up, even to us, the "moronic" American public that bought Mr. Bush's Iraq misadventure, after it was marketed as a "product," like a "no-sugar" can of diet Coke, a marketing oxymoron if there ever was one.

But, if you like Mr. Obama's war or not -- and most Americans don't, according to the latest polls -- what is historically unusual about it is how little it has been hyped by lies by America's Chief Executive.

But how I wish such Obama "honesty" meant that what our hopeful (supposedly not "hypeful") -- president is doing -- and been saying up to now -- made any sense at all!

To me, it's sheer madness.

And, all moral considerations aside, we simply can't afford it.

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