Here’s an example of the delusions of the so-called “left,” from none other than Garry Wills. Apparently, the great Progressive Messiah is now revealed to be the Pied Piper:
There was only one thing that brought [Barack Obama] to the attention of the nation as a future president. It was opposition to the Iraq war. None of his serious rivals for the Democratic nomination had that credential—not Hillary Clinton, not Joseph Biden, not John Edwards. It set him apart. He put in clarion terms the truth about that war—that it was a dumb war, that it went after an enemy where he was not hiding, that it had no indigenous base of support, that it had no sensible goal and no foreseeable cutoff point.
He said that he would not oppose war in general, but dumb wars. On that basis, we went for him. And now he betrays us. Although he talked of a larger commitment to Afghanistan during his campaign, he has now officially adopted his very own war, one with all the disqualifications that he attacked in the Iraq engagement. This war too is a dumb one. It has even less indigenous props than Iraq did.
Well, who was the fool for taking this “credential” seriously? What was the difference between Obama on the one hand, and Clinton, Biden, and Edwards on the other? What “set him apart” wasn’t his politics, but the fact that he wasn’t in the U.S.Senate in 2002, he didn’t have to cast a difficult vote, and the other politicians did. They were the ones who had to face the politically perilous Authorization of the Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF) vote, knowing that a yea vote might imperil the support from their political base, but that a nay vote might put an end to their political careers entirely.
Bill Clinton had it right all along: the idea that Obama was some kind of virtuous peace candidate was indeed a fairy tale. One poorly documented speech by an Illinois State Senator does not a peace candidate make. Besides, as I have pointed out here before, Obama pointed repeatedly to Afghanistan as the “good war” in making his (in my opinion) correct arguments against the war in Iraq. Wills concludes his commentary:
I cannot vote for any Republican. But Obama will not get another penny from me, or another word of praise, after this betrayal. And in all this I know that my disappointment does not matter. What really matters are the lives of the young men and women he is sending off to senseless deaths.
Well, fine: take your ball and go home, Garry. But President Obama didn’t invite you over for a game of beanbag, now, did he? Wills needs to read Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton’s Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000 to understand that Obama’s policy is fairly consistent with America’s imperial history. Most U.S. Presidents have had to grapple with the apparent contradictions of the U.S. as an imperial republic, and most have decided that it was preferable to use violence and military force to advance what they defined as the country’s vital interests. Wills should know something about the imperial presidency, don’t you think?
By the way, I agree with Wills that the escalation in Afghanistan is probably a bad idea–but this is one instance in which Obama is following through on a campaign promise. (Unlike, say, his promises to end torture, Guantanamo Bay, Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, and to protect abortion rights, etc.) Remember: the Pied Piper did the job he was hired to do–he rid the town of rats, just as he was asked to do. But he also rid the townspeople of their children, too.