Those of us who marched against the Iraq war and the tyrannies of the Rove/Cheney/Bush administration hoped we saw the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in the election of a non-wasp community organizer. In President Obama's speech last night to unveil his plan to re-invade Afghanistan, many of those same folks will believe that the sun has already set on that golden dawn.
Are they right?
Thinking of the young patriots who will be asked to redeploy for the second, third or fourth time causes me great pain. And the thousands of Afghani and Pakistani people who will be displaced, maimed or killed will leave a deep mark on the soul of America. I abhor war, but as a veteran I recognize the value and even the dark beauty of a populace willing to place their lives on the line in what they believe is an effort to protect their loved ones and their country. Also as a veteran, I deplore the fact that this nation's people are not deeply enough involved in its workings to support a draft that could not only lift the burden of redeployments from our now mercenary army, but could also stand up and say no to such horrifically wrong deployments as that in Iraq. But while working to change the way things are, we must also work with the situation that exists, and that situation includes the botched mess we face in Afghanistan.
On balance, I think Mr. Obama's assessment of the situation may be correct, and that the infusion of a sufficient force to lead the Afghanistan and Pakistan forces in locating and destroying the central operations of Al Qaida and those Taliban who choose to seek power through force may be an effective means of temporarily quieting those dangerous elements.
The great hope among the war protestors who voted for Obama was that he would call a halt to America's warrior mentality and imperialistic approach to international relations. We recognize that the reason America is disliked around the world is our history of deposing national leaders whose economic ideals were antithetical to ours and the use of our military to guard and grow our economic interests. We've seen it from the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 to our failure to support Honduran President Zelaya this year.
Still, the only thing that did not ring true for me in Mr. Obama's speech last night was his denunciation of the world's belief that America seeks power over global resources. He was right in declaring that we do not seek to colonize. We gave that up soon after we shook off the shackles of being a colony ourselves, but he is dead wrong if he truly believes that America is not imperialistic. Our brand of imperialism is much more subtle and insidious than expansion through acquisition by means of war, but the world recognizes our history as economic imperialism enhanced by military might.
"They don't hate us for our freedom. They'd just like to have their own.
They don't hate us for our riches, though they know we're sons-of-bitches.
They just don't want us stealing it from them." -- Bob Dylan Revisited, 2007
Mr. Obama's approach to governance has the far right's undies in a twist for his disbelief in their insistence that protecting the life of every fetus has no connection to their willingness to sacrifice nineteen year olds. He has the support of moderates who believe that military might is the solution to terrorism and don't recognize the terrorism wrought by American indifference to "collateral damage". He has now also twisted BVDs on the far left by ignoring their call to stand down and leave Afghanistan and Pakistan to clean up the mess.
I am usually a deep believer in the correctness of Dennis Kucinich's thinking, but this time I part ways with him; not to say yet that he is wrong any more than I can definitively say that Mr. Obama is right, but to say that it is once again too early to condemn this new president.
Barak Obama's approach to the presidency seems to be very well balanced. He recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of both extremes and appears to me to walk the tight-rope of sensible action with poise and wisdom. In the power of his speech, of which last night's was a masterpiece, he gives us a presidential example worthy of respect and reason enough to follow his leadership.
While announcing that, he too, will be a war president, he wisely named the time at which he will be forced to recognize either failure or success with the same action -- the withdrawal of troops -- in the face of criticism by the likes of John McCain. While announcing that he committed to risking some thirty thousand more American lives in Afghanistan, he pledged to that country that he would not make them submit to the installation of a foreign government. While announcing that he plans to escalate an on-going war, he pledged to strive for the reduction and eventual elimination of our most dangerous weapons of mass-destruction. On the other hand, while announcing that he will close Guantanamo, he silently operates Bagram and other black sites around the world. While saying that he does not believe in American imperialism, he assures the world that trade under agreements like NAFTA is a good thing.
Does all this make him a double-talker who really plans, under deep cover, to continue operations even the American people abhor? Or, does it make him a savvy politician aware that he can only incrementally change those things he, too, abhors? Is he a two-faced politician or a two-edged sword in the hands of a new-age Solomon?
None of us, perhaps not even Mr. Obama himself, knows the answers to these questions, but at this point, for my money, he is still enough of an improvement over the horrors we saw coming out of Washington, D.C. from the last administration that I will leave my protest signs in the corner to wait and watch.