President Barack Obama seems intent on
making the slaying of Osama Bin Laden a keynote part of his 2012 campaign. Vice President
Joe Biden said in New York, as a wave of PR material about the Osama killing
emanated from the Obama camp:
"Thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
We thought that Barack's "Yes, We Can" was a ringing endorsement of new methods to roll back poverty, get Americans working, restore good education and healthcare.
Instead we have John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser talking in medical terms about drone strikes "laser precision," "surgical strikes," and "removing the cancer" and similar terms when addressing the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank.
We also hear about the difficulty of Obama's One Hundred in Uganda, and the difficulty of cutting through jungle to catch rebel leader, Joseph Kony -- doesn't it make you wonder just who paid for the controversial video that came out not long after Obama's 100 were sent to Uganda and which has been viewed some 88-million times on You Tube? The coincidence is noteworthy.
Brennan in his carefully scripted piece said: "President Obama said here five years ago, if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is an unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives - the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens." I sure hope those are words we don't later regret. Brennan acknowledged that countries that are not friendly to the United States are also developing this technology.
Is Obama's focus on Bin Laden's execution, the tracking of a relatively minor African despot, and a defense of drone attacks (almost eight times as many have occurred under Obama than under the administration of George W. Bush) a way of making us forget an economy that still sheds jobs and stutters along, growing only with the sheer will of mostly small businesses? Is Obama hoping to seduce us into the fears engendered eleven years ago so that we forget that millions can't get work now? That the school system is in deep trouble? And everything from our roads to telecommunications infrastructure is creaking.
Hitler did it with success in Germany; he turned the attention of Germans away from a dysfunctional economy to rank discrimination against Jews and war. But as Simon Johnson and James Kwak remind us in White House Burning, this is not a new tactic in the United States. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's view during the Revolutionary War was that debt was a necessary evil. But Thomas Jefferson and James Madison "were firmly opposed to debt. For them, borrowing and the taxes it necessitated provided the cash that enabled governments to centralize power and to fight wars -- both of which were bad. In 1795, Madison wrote,
"Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it compromises and developes [sic] the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."
Obama's challenge too is that more than 550,000 troops are overseas in close to 600 bases. He can't bring them home at a time when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is downsizing the military. The 2013 Budget puts the Army on a path to drop to 490,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps to 182,000 Marines over five years. Currently, the two services have 562,000 and 202,000 active-duty members, respectively. Where would they find jobs? What sort of hostility would they face from civilians who are already at a disadvantage in job lines to returning vets?
Indeed, Obama who came in on an end-the-wars ticket has ratcheted down troop numbers by less than one percent. In Iraq, to March 31, 2011, according to Tony Dokoupil writing in the Daily Beast, the Department of Defense said the size of the U.S. presence expanded by 7,200 soldiers (to 92,800 in all). In Afghanistan, the increase was 7,300 (to 111,000 people). And the category of "undistributed" U.S. soldiers abroad--which includes those on classified assignment--ballooned from 157, 537 to 167,342.
How can he bring our heroes home, and hand them a retrenchment slip at the same time? Quite frankly, they can't afford to bring the troops home, war has become necessary for jobs and manufacturing. The military-industrial complex has created its own reality.
But instead of these truths anticipate months of political spin telling us that war and assassination is "the right thing to do." That it has, "made us stronger." That these wars, and ongoing war talk, are "necessary evils" for the world's greatest superpower. And mind the potholes as you camp in lines waiting for a handful of jobs. We're still the greatest, didn't ya'know?