Following President Obama’s appearances at the U.N. and the G-20 summit, various talking heads have labeled him, based clearly on their political preferences, either to be a wuss or a wise diplomat in his foray into public foreign policy. The right wingers, historically the proponents of “bomb ’em off the face of the earth”, have declared his speeches a prelude to the dissolution of the free world, rife with all the accoutrements of caving in to terrorism. For Heaven’s sake, they have practically crucified our President for merely talking with Iran. Do they actually think that rushing into that country with military strategies and armaments is more effective and less costly than verbal negotiations? On the other side of the aisle, Democrats and Progressives have, although very tenuously, tagged him as a leader who needs to mull over all the options before he will take action, resulting in active policies that will be 100 per cent correct. (See Frank Rich: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/opinion/27rich.html?_r=1)
All of this talk is semantic silliness. As I have said many times before, traditional warfare is obsolete, useless and just downright destructive. Let me use our current situation in Afghanistan as an example. Keep in mind that the old USSR spent ten years fighting in Afghanistan. Due to that country’s decentralized tribal structure, rough terrain and poverty, the USSR did have to pull out not even close to being triumphant. The cost of that ten year battle helped bring about the demise of the USSR.
So why is the U.S. following that same foolhardy pattern? We had our chance to nab Osama bin Laden in the year or two after 9/11. We blew it. There are two paths we can take in Afghanistan. First is an insurgency. Typical military strategy holds that by increasing the number of troops, we will experience victory. Always remember that without troops and wars, there would not be any military to speak of. Insurgencies validate the existence of the military. Tell me something, my friends: have we been successful in any post-World War II war by the sheer strength of our bullets and bombs? Certainly our presence in Korea, Viet Nam and Iraq was total failures. The “good guys” never won, the native population was decimated and the physical structure of the countries destroyed. At best, we had to settle for a partitioning of the aggrieved countries and at worst, we had our cojones handed to us on a silver platter, with thousands upon thousands of our troops dead.
The second option for dealing with Afghanistan is trying to reach and alter the hearts and minds of the people. By providing them with the basic needs of housing, jobs and education, we might be able to change the overall outlook. One fact that has come to my attention this week is that Afghanistan has a 90% rate of illiteracy. NINETY PER CENT!!! That is absolutely astounding. No wonder the extremists have the upper hand. The people can react only to the verbal promises and brute force of these terrorists because they cannot read more reasonable proposals. So the rebel rhetoric and guns are all they can consider as a means of help for them.
Furthermore, regarding this tack of reaching the hearts and minds of the people in Afghanistan, in all truthfulness, how can America provide the basic needs for Afghanistan when we are in pretty shaky shape right here on our own turf, what with inadequate funding for proper housing, education, health care and a dearth of job opportunities? Protectionism is not the answer, yet neither is the outlaying the funds for nation building half way around the globe. Somehow, these countries must find a way to discern who would be their best leaders, elect them (of course, a free and fair election must be a requisite) and work with those leaders to help themselves. It might appear to be a simple solution, yet we have witnessed in countries around the world that this type of government is so hard to create and activate.
These ideological divisions are artificial constructs and have no usefulness in effecting change for the betterment of the human race. It is immaterial whether or not President Obama is a wuss or wise man in his international policies. For the life of me, I do not understand the opposition’s constant criticism of him for gathering all the pertinent information before taking action, considering all the options before letting the bullets and bombs fly, and weighing the pros and cons before subjecting our troops to death sentences.
Our notion of war is outdated and ineffectual. We now have a thinking man in the White House. What a waste it would be for us not to allow him the time to use those abilities to do the right thing. Even after given that luxury of cool, contemplative thought, these are such complicated and tricky issues that there is a fairly good chance that the decisions still might not be the absolute correct ones.
Wuss or wise man? Either way, Barack Obama is just a human being. Even the comparisons to JFK are ridiculous: JFK was no genius when it came to foreign policy. Yes, his ultimatum to the USSR during the Cuban missile crisis was successful in the dismantling of the warheads, but certainly his involvement in the Bay of Pigs was disastrous and his policy (or more specifically, his LACK of a real policy) in Viet Nam was the prelude to an even more dire outcome.
President Obama is no JFK and we should be glad for that. He is who he is, trying his damn best to do the right thing for our country and the world community. To label him as either a wuss or a wise man is a detriment to progress.