Ending Our Longest War
Barack Obama was elected president primarily because of his stated opposition to the Iraq War, defeating Hillary Clinton who not only voted for the war but refused to apologize for the vote, as had Joe Biden and the other senators in that 2008 primary election.
Obama famously announced he was not opposed to all wars, just dumb wars. Meaning it would be dumb to go into Iraq, but Afghanistan was, well, maybe not smart, but acceptable. Much of America agreed with the assessment.
As we know, George W. Bush not only began the dumb war, but virtually abandoned Afghanistan at Tora Bora, permitting Osama bin Laden to escape and let Al Qaeda and the Taliban regroup, setting us up for the longest war in our history.
I cannot think of a greater military blunder in American history. A blunder compounded by the fact that both wars were financed on borrowed money—the true cost largely hidden or obfuscated, thereby contributing to our massive debt and to the financial crisis of late 2008. We could write reams more on that alone.
The thing is, Obama was looked upon as more or less of a peace candidate. He even got a Nobel Peace prize within months of his election, but those who saw him as a peacenik were quickly disabused of the idea. He went along with the military in Iraq too long, though he finally extricated us from that needless cesspool.
Then he went along with the military in expanding the fighting in Afghanistan long after it had clearly turned into a dumb war. Americans were dying protecting one of the most corrupt governments in the world today—despite the nifty cap and cape its corruptionist in chief wears on state occasions. Obama did not give the military all the personnel it sought for a new “surge,” but most of what the generals wanted.
Some of our most lauded generals tried to stem the terrorist/insurgent tide. They failed. We were supposed to train Afghan troops to run their own war. Instead, Afghan troops yawned their way through it all—and some turned out to be moles or turncoats who slaughtered their own people and many Americans.
Obama gave us an arbitrary withdrawal date of mid-2014 while the losing effort wore on and on. Was he biding his time until re-election, fearing that going against the Pentagon might hurt his chances, despite the continuing atrocities?
Maybe—because suddenly things changed.
Friday he announced an end to our combatant role in Afghanistan a year early—by mid 2013. Henceforth our troops will only train and advise the Afghans, possibly fight in special situations. We soon will begin bringing our troops home, leaving an undisclosed number of noncombatants. It’s fuzzed over in politico-diplomatic language, but it’s a welcome thing–finally. History will show he ended two unpopular wars, technically in his first term.
He is finally standing up to the Pentagon. Nominating Chuck Hagel for Defense confirms his determination to do so.
Not to seem ungrateful, but what took the peace candidate so damn long?
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer