Saturday, February 7, 2009



A recent commentator wonders why President Obama seems to be pursuing a war strategy, given that he strongly opposed the war during his campaign. A fascinating question, that.


·         President Johnson initiates and vastly expands the war in Vietnam, on the advice of his brilliant strategists.

·         Nixon chooses to extend the war for another five years, after promising to end it through his “Plan to end the war.” After that five years, the war ends the same way it might have, had Johnson never begun, or Nixon never continued the war, except . . . 50,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese lost their lives.

·         Carter, when faced with a hostile takeover of Americans in Iran, negotiates for their release, instead of directing bombers to begin bombing Iran.

·         Reagan observes the release of the hostages, remarkably quickly after his inauguration. Result: no war, no one is killed.

·         Bush ignores warnings of an imminent attack, observes an attack resulting in the deaths of 3,000 Americans. Bush directs the start of a war against the wrong country. Eight years later, thousands of Americans and probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, with an uncertain end in sight. The initial culprits remain in hiding in the country that harbored them initially.

·         Obama wins an election based partly on his promise to end the war in Iraq. Obama now looks to continue and perhaps expand the forgotten war in Afghanistan. The “war” in Afghanistan looks like Vietnam. Will Obama follow Johnson and Nixon down a similar rathole? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, ex-Veep Cheney is out there snarling, promising really, that an attack of great magnitude will occur. He is desperate to prove that he was right and Obama and the triumphant Democrats are wrong. He wants us to continue torturing and continue bombing.

Meanwhile, Hamas continues lobbing rockets at Israel, and Israel continues dropping bombs on Gaza. 

Meanwhile, the Taliban continue to blow up villages, roads, trucks and people, anything and anyone that gets in their way of becoming the world’s first drug superpower.  Afghan warlord-drug mobsters are living the good life.

So, what is our president to do?

It occurs to me that we (the US of A) has not won a war since WW II.  All other “wars” declared and undeclared have either continued without abating, or we have simply, flat out lost.  We cut a deal in Korea, lost in Vietnam, and are somewhere in between in Iraq. Afghanistan looks unpromising. Also, I am reminded, the “war” on cancer, and the “war” on poverty were either lost somewhere in the dim past or wrestled to a draw—you choose.

So, maybe, I am thinking, “war” is a bad choice of terms to describe what we are doing in the Middle East. First, it forces you to adopt a military approach—bombing, tanks, shooting people wholesale. Second, it reduces the options you are allowed to consider.

Maybe in this ninth year of the 21st millennium, we need to do something completely different. Maybe we need to call a halt, even a temporary one might be good, and we need to begin some conversations about what the various actors want. Since war clearly will not deliver any results worth having, maybe thinking and talking might produce a totally different strategy for the world.

Couldn’t hurt.

A little “out-of-the-box” thinking guys, please.


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