I suspect that few of those who have closely watched President Barack Obama’s actions since he took office were surprised by his announcement last night that he intends to send 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan. If nothing else, the length of time it took for him to make the decision was a clear indication that he was leaning toward escalating the interminable conflict. If he had intended to get out, less time would have been needed to decide how to do so. Given this, it was clear from the beginning of his Hamlet-like approach to the highly publicized White House conferences on Afghanistan, that he was leaning toward escalation.
Now that the decision has been publicly announced, we are left to ponder the ramifications for Afghanistan, the United States, and our tarnished, deeply confused, hero in the Oval Office, who will travel to Oslo, Norway in a few days to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. If he maintains his current trajectory, he will end up giving peaceniks a bad name.
The president’s decision will inevitably produce a rise in the number of Afghans being killed as a result of the war in their star-crossed nation. Furthermore, events associated with the troop increase will motivate more young men and women in the region to join the fight against the foreign invaders. For reasons that should not be that difficult to comprehend, the troop increase will also have the counterproductive impact of undermining morale among Afghan police and military units, who will have to bear the stigma of helping foreigners kill their relatives. The net result is that the people of Afghanistan are headed for much harder times.
They deserve better.
The president’s decision provides a different, but no less momentous, set of problems for U.S. citizens. More of us will experience dismemberment and violent death, more families will be destroyed, more money that we really don’t have will be spent, we will be less safe, and our tattered stature in the world will continue its precipitous decline.
As far as the president is concerned, it pains me to say it, but the raw, unavoidable truth is that last night Barack Obama threw his presidency under the proverbial bus. Several factors are responsible: hubris, insufficient understanding of history and culture, personal insecurities, insufficient common sense, and imperial fantasies of the sort that have run erstwhile great powers to ground on more occasions than need to be specifically addressed here.
However this unnecessary, violent travesty works out over the tortured years immediately ahead, from this point forward President Barack Obama will be a wounded duck; a gifted, talented man, who was swept into office before he was ready for the job by the buoyant, joyous dreams of a generation hungering for change. All is not lost. But we need acknowledge that last night our hero came up tragically short. My heart is heavy today.
We deserve better.