Thursday, December 03, 2009
A baritone squeak of pain.
THE WEST POINT SPEECH. I read a lot of the commentary, some from the left, a lot from the right, and I confess to being surprised by the diversity of viewpoints. Libs range from Vietnam paranoia to disapproval of timelines. Many conservatives are disdainful, but others, like Rove and Gingrich, are modestly hopeful and even speak of courage, despite their reservations about a date certain a few months before the 2012 election for beginning the withdrawal.
Frankly, I don't see any courage here. I see a dissembling choice between polar opposites of fear. Fear that if he alienates the hardcore America-hating left, they won't work enthusiastically for his reelection even if they still vote for him. And fear that if he does what he really wants to do -- abandon Afghanistan just as he has castrated the War on Terror with a "treat terrorists as U.S. citizens" law enforcement strategy -- he will fatally expose his blatant campaign dishonesty to the conservatives, independents, and moderate Democrats who may have their doubts about the war but won't accept a white flag as the new standard of American foreign policy.
Despite all the months of delay, this is still a decision not to decide. Yes, we're surging, but we're also leaving. The president is occupying his usual position -- above it all, mistaking detachment for immunity from responsibility...
Cue the Mission Impossible theme.
...hoping against hope that he won't be lowered into the stark dilemma on the ground -- actually deciding -- that results in real personal consequences. He still believes he can play it all by ear for the next eighteen months, waiting to see which hole to dash to for electoral safety.
Run or fight? If you're a mouse, the consequences are about the same, either way.
But there is no safe hole. He's trapped no matter what happens, because he made the trap for himself a couple years ago. For close to half a century now, ever since Vietnam, Democrats have been opposed to any exercise of American military power that isn't unrelated to American national security. Defending ourselves is somehow immoral, which is not any kind of expression of concern for American troops because it is still okay to send our military into harm's way under U.N. or NATO control on behalf of quixotic causes that appeal to their sense of social justice, like Kosovo or Rwanda. Average Americans have, unfortunately for the Democrats, tumbled to this perverse preference and don't accept it. That's why Democrats running for national office have been compelled to lie -- repeatedly, flagrantly, and sometimes ingeniously -- about their own commitment to national security and the force of American arms. This is the only relevant fact in terms of assessing Obama's paradoxical Afghanistan policy and his fears about the response of his leftist base. Which is why they should and probably will cut him a break.
He opposed the Iraq War from the safe position of not being in Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. That's what ultimately won him the support of the true believers on the left. But since he was running for national office, he couldn't tell the truth -- that of all evils in the world, he, like his most ardent followers, regarded American military might as the worst of them, the likely source of all nasty acts in the second and third worlds. If it weren't for the United States Marines, Navy, and Army, muslims wouldn't be so pissed off and the tinpot dictators of Asia, Africa, South America, China, Russia and even Cuba wouldn't be so cranky and unreasonable and might even treat their own people more decently. But average Americans are far too stupid to understand such global insights and so, come election time, it's necessary to lie to them. You oppose the Iraq War because America, being America, is actually worse than Saddam, somehow, but you can't say that. Therefore, you and your followers agree on the lie that you actually do approve of the Afghanistan War, just so the dopes won't think you hate your own country as much as you really truly do.
Yeah. I know. Sounds like paranoid conspiracy theory, right? Except that the current left-right political considerations everyone concedes Obama is dealing with are the stone cold proof that this is the truth of the matter. If the left is mad at Obama for sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, they are mad at him for NOT lying during his presidential campaign. Everything he ever said about Afghanistan being the GOOD war, they assumed to be a lie, accepted as a lie, and fully expected to be proven a lie. In fact, their support for him was based on their belief that he was lying to the entire American public.
That would be the first half of the trap Obama is now trying to escape.
The second half of the trap is that all the people Obama was lying to in the name of social justice, meaning the, uh, majority of American citizens, don't expect to be lied to the way liberals orgasmically delight in being lied to, and so he discovered that he was, in some sense, stuck with his declaration that there was such a thing as a good war and Afghanistan was it.
Which is worse? Getting backed into the position of telling the truth to the 30 percent who demand to be lied to, or being forced to turn your lies into (some kind of) truth for the 70 percent who actually believed what you told them in the first place? How do you decide? This is the politico-philosophical nub, isn't it? For a social justice obsessive like Obama, the decision turns out to be fairly easy. You tell all the lies everybody on all sides wants to hear -- in a pleasing, rational baritone voice. The way Chavez, Castro, and Mugabe would. You tell conservatives you're committed to escalating the war without ever mentioning victory. You tell the left you're committed to winding down the war without ever mentioning what you mean by "conditions on the ground."
And you're so pleased with your own cagey rhetoric that you forget you're not a community organizer kibbitzing from the outside but the undisputed boss of all the proceedings, ineluctably tied to the specific, real outcomes, whatever they are.
There's no good outcome here for Obama. He can turn the generals loose, watch casualties increase dramatically, and still there will be no milestones of victory because he never defined any. He can exercise his power as Commander-in-Chief and turn the "surge" into a farce, limiting casualties among all those troops he has no interest in seeing succeed and then bringing them home on schedule. But in that case there will also be no milestones of the surge, and people will remember both that Bush's Iraq surge worked and that Obama gave his generals less than they asked for.
The loud blowfly in the ointment is that this situation is NOT really about Obama and his electoral base, his image, his rhetoric, or his quaint notions of social justice. It's about the fact that there's a sizeable percentage of muslims who want to do as much harm to the United States and its citizens as they can. There's absolutely NO sign that Obamouse understands this elemental fact. Which is why he's set himself up for the springing of the trap that will finish him off politically -- a massacre of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a disastrous coup in Pakistan, another 9/11 in America, or any of a dozen other proofs positive that compromise and bowing merely embolden enemies around the world who look at him and laugh. I won't show you this, because Mrs. CP wouldn't like it, but I will remind you of this:
Traps tend to trap their quarry.
The traps are there, and they will be sprung. I feel sorry for everyone who's trying to see the silver lining of such malevolent clouds.
P.S. Two additional notes. Mice can be a problem. Here are 500,000 of them killed in four nights during the plague that hit Victoria and South Australia in 1917.
And here's what Robert Burns had to say about Barack Obama:
To a Mouse
Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel [Ann] coulter past
Out thro' thy cell. [not to mention Malkin.]
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! [Hail to the Chief!]
Or something like that.