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Barack Obama, Warlord of the 21st Century

You know who I really, really wouldn't run against on a national-security platform? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who killed Osama bin Laden.

But that's just me. Last week Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, in an extended and generally thoughtful interview with President Obama, asked the following question:
 

GOLDBERG: One of the aspects of this is the question of whether it's plausible that Barack Obama would ever use military power to stop Iran. The Republicans are trying to make this an issue -- and not only the Republicans -- saying that this man, by his disposition, by his character, by his party, by his center-left outlook, is not going to do that.

Three days after Goldberg published that interview, Obama's Attorney General gave a speech declaring that the Executive Branch could target American citizens for assassination whenever it liked, because (wait for it), the "due process" demanded in the Constitution is not the same as judicial process. By Holder's standard, as long as the President and his aides use a process when they're deciding who to kill, it's all good with the Founders. Which leads us to the question: how could someone with the disposition, the character, and the center-left outlook to order unreviewed drone strikes on American citizens ever bring himself to use military force?

Not seeing Obama as he really is has become one of our national pastimes, and both the Left and the Right play it at championship level. Some people on the Left cannot forgive Obama for not being the peacenik we (and I include myself in that "we") wanted to think we were electing. And I'm certainly not happy about the stands he's taken on targeted killings, or on executive detention. But to give Obama his due, he was absolutely up front with the voters about his military plans if elected. He wanted to get out of Iraq, but recommit to Afghanistan, and he's done that. He explicitly told the American voters, on TV, that he would hunt and kill Osama bin Laden. He didn't say capture or apprehend. He didn't even go with Bush's swaggering "dead or alive." Obama said "kill," full stop. And that's what he did. He also said, in both the primary and general-election debates, that we was willing to breach Pakistani sovereignty if that's what it took to get Bin Laden. Even if some of us don't have the President that we thought or hoped we were electing, on military questions we definitely have the President that the candidate told us he would be.

Right wing critics, on the other hand, fervently insist that Obama somehow is the peacenik that the Left thought he was, and that he's coddling America's military enemies. This coddling generally takes the form of relentless attacks with predator drones, and I suspect our enemies get tired of it pretty quickly. The idea of Obama as weakling is a strange but resilient fantasy, impossible to disprove because it's never been even remotely based on military reality.

So let's review what we, as voters, actually did in the 2008 general election:

We replaced George W. Bush with a better and more effective war leader.

This is not the story anybody tells. It is not what anybody believes happened. But it is what obviously did happen. Barack Obama has been a very effective war leader, given the mess he inherited. In fact, he's been much, much better at coping with the gigantic military mess that Bush II left behind than he has been at coping with the gigantic economic mess Bush left behind. (This only makes sense: Obama could start thinking about military strategies before he even started campaigning, but when the economic crisis hit we were already in the countdown to Election Day.) Obama succeeds because, unlike George W. Bush, he keeps his eye on the ball: achieving goals and taking out enemies while risking as few American troops as possible.

This is what we voted for, and when it comes down to it, what the average middle-of-the-road voter wants: more victories, fewer casualties. This country didn't turn away from George W. Bush and sour on the Iraq war because they had developed philosophical objections to warmongering or were worried about erosion of habeas corpus. They turned against Bush and his wars because those wars brought casualties instead of victories. Most American voters don't like Americans getting killed. And most voters like presidents who get things done. That's Barack Obama as Commander-in-Chief: soldiers come home and jobs get done.

So Obama gets behind the bombing campaign in Libya, and Qaddhafi gets toppled without American boots on the ground. Obama authorizes predator drone strikes and special forces raids and more predator drone strikes, targeted attacks with calculate risk against reward. He signs off on the Bin Laden raid deep inside Pakistan but insists on a backup helicopter. Which takes us back to Goldberg's question:


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, if people want to say about me that I have a profound preference for peace over war, that every time I order young men and women into a combat theater and then see the consequences on some of them, if they're lucky enough to come back, that this weighs on me -- I make no apologies for that. Because anybody who is sitting in my chair who isn't mindful of the costs of war shouldn't be here, because it's serious business. These aren't video games that we're playing here.

Now, having said that, I think it's fair to say that the last three years, I've shown myself pretty clearly willing, when I believe it is in the core national interest of the United States, to direct military actions, even when they entail enormous risks.

Since Barack Obama used most of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech lecturing about Just-War Theory and when he felt justified launching military attacks, I'd think that's much more than fair to say. But here's the truth: that preference for peace over war, that refusal to risk people without a compelling reason, is part of why he is good at this. Weighing risk and reward is a virtue in almost any enterprise, but it's especially important as a military virtue. Good commanders don't take pointless risks. This is why George H. W. Bush, mocked on national television for using the word "prudent," won a war in Iraq and why his swaggering son did not. This is why John McCain, whose solution to seemingly every problem is to send more troops, never became an admiral like his father and grandfather, and why he did not become president.

The fantasy that Obama is weak on defense is deeply and dearly held by Republicans, and the three Republican presidential candidates who've managed to carry states have all begun, to various degrees, attacking that presumed weakness. But by "being stronger," the Obama-is-weak crowd mean "acting tougher, in a loud theatrical way." They mistake swagger for strength. They think George W. Bush was "strong" because he'd say dumb stuff like "Bring it on," and fearlessly send lots of other people into unnecessary danger. They think John McCain, who was angry at Obama for not sending American ground troops to Libya and who during the 2008 campaign urged a military intervention against Russia, is "strong," because he's an impetuous hothead who always wants more boys in harm's way. And this kind of tough-on-TV thing can pass for strength for a little while, because most of our country is so insulated from the sacrifices that our military make. But given time, and we've been at war for more than a decade, voters figure this out. In peace time, the guy who makes the biggest show of toughness in the bar gets treated as the tough guy. In war, people learn the difference and don't forget it. Sonny Corleone acts tougher than Michael Corleone, but that's no reason to get in the car with him.

The leading Republican candidates don't seem to have grasped this yet. And they (or their base) seem fixated on the idea that Obama's weakness as a war leader will make him vulnerable to attack. Attacking one of your opponent's strongest points because you've mistaken it for a weak one is pretty much the opposite of strategy. Ask Custer.

Let's remember what that naive peacenik state senator from Illinois said all those years ago when he opposed the second Iraq war:

I'm not against all wars. I'm against dumb wars.

If that's a platform you want to campaign against, good luck. You were never going to make a good commander-in-chief anyway.

Wow, that is a great deal to think about. I certainly do agree with what you've written though. Nice piece Doc, really good.

Thanks! That's nice of you!

Interesting post, Doc. I have often thought that targeting the revolutionaries that are hiding behind the populace is the logical response to a 4GW insurgency, though whether it is legal and moral is a dicey question. OEF-Afghanistan seems like more of a quagmire to me, the sort that cost lives for little clear gain. I'm sure there's a geopolitical strategy behind and beyond the stated purpose, but it is tough to prosecute a war in that terrain.

I don't disagree about the difficulty of fighting this kind of war (or almost any kind of war) in the Af/Pak region. But I'd say that Obama has done better than I expected there, especially considering that the occupation was bungled in the first year and then had six years to get further off track before Obama got handed the problem. I don't believe that Afghanistan has been "winnable," if it was ever winnable, since sometime in late 2002 or early 2003. A more effective warleader doesn't make a war suddenly winnable. It just stops some of the pointless losses.

I do believe that Obama has largely managed to hold things together there, which is the best-case scenario, while returning the focus to taking out al-Qaeda leadership, which was always the most important goal.

I'm not defending the morals or legality of the tactics. I am simply pointing out that when Obama does something morally dicey for the sake of expediency, it generally does turn out to be expedient. When Obama trades moral purity for results, he usually comes up with the results. The Bush regime would do clearly illegal and immoral things and achieve nothing, or harm their own cause. I don't mean "warlord" as a compliment. But if it's a choice between an effective warlord with some scruples and an unscrupulous warlord who loses battles ... well, actually that isn't a choice.

You need to put this on a T-shirt, Doc. 

"Obama 2012 - Immoral, sure. But at least he's expedient."

 

 

Attacking the greatest strength of an opponent is standard operating procedure for Republicans.  Sometimes it works; sometimes not, but it is always ugly.

 
Very early on, Karl Rove did something that many other political operatives don't do, and it's really an element of why he's a unique figure in American political life: He understands that while other people look for the weakness in an opponent and exploit that, Rove has long looked at the strength of an opponent. In the case of Ann Richards running for governor, it was that she was tolerant and appealed to many constituents, so you attack her as an advocate for the homosexuals' agenda. In the case of John McCain, it was that he was a POW in Vietnam, and so you raise questions about his service in Vietnam through surrogate groups.
 
In 2004, the number one thing that John Kerry offered was his heroic service in Vietnam, and so what Rove did was attack the strength of Kerry, not his weakness. What you had to do was confront Kerry's strength in Vietnam by raising doubts about whether or not he was a hero and whether or not his service was really all that noble. And you do that in part with a surrogate group, raising questions about whether his medals were truly warranted, and beyond that, pressing the case of John Kerry, who came back from the war as an opponent of the war.

Sure, but it's one thing to spin public perception of a candidate that the electorate is just meeting, and another the change their gut-level sense of someone who's been President for almost four years. Your median voter knows how things are going.

You definitely can't win a general election by painting Obama as too weak to start a war with Iran, because the voters, by and large, don't want a war with Iran. I think people understand that Obama's long-term goal is bringing troops home, not sending more of them out on another massive ill-conceived military adventure. And he's on the same basic page with the voters on that one.

Nice piece, doc. Very sharp.

Attacks on Obama will always be popular among 'Misinformed Redneck Voters', a bunch were interviewed in a video of that title, posted at Driftglass. The closing yokel says 'we lost the war but...'

Driftglass responds:

When a Conservative redneck complains that "We lost 'The War'" no one needs to ask which "war" they are talking about..... The last time these goons were given a free hand to f--k up my country, it took over two million Union soldiers and four years of bloody civil war to convince them it was a bad idea. Maybe someone could ask leading...Conservative intellectuals......the level of effort it took to hold themselves, year after year,  willfully ignorant of fact that these goons are the bedrock on which their Movement was built.

Sometimes I think life in America is just a series of product placements.

The most depressing part of my day is when I browse Greenwald's column.

It seems like the military runs everything with their corporate product placement friends.

The way you put it we could believe that Obama is just stemming the tide as opposed to neocons increasing the tide to tsunami levels.

This all reminds me of Clinton and how he brought us to war in the old Yugoslavia that went to shite following the death of Tito. I mean I think we never even lost a soldier. Peace finally came to an arena filled with war and strife for thousands of years (at least prior to Tito).

George H.W. knew how to go to war. One month and it was over and whilst he was summoned to keep us in Iraq forever, he demurred.

Then his idiot son decided to relive that decision with the help of the single biggest war contractor ever to see the light of day; Dick Cheney's corporation.

Maybe Greenwald is right.

But if he is right, the best we can ever hope for is that we have a government that stems the tide.

And while the left might scream and cry about America as the warlord of the planet; the repubs want more war, more havoc, more destruction, more weeping and wailing from foreign tribes.

We lose 3,000 people and we go ahead and murder or maim or dislocate millions of people.

Like I said, at times this all is terribly depressing to me.

 

Greenwald isn't right, he isn't even worth reading. He is as divorced from the real world as, say, John McCain, but in the other direction. McCain wants to bomb Syria and create 'safe havens' for rebels-which would mean we are responsible for regime change in Syria, which would, in 10 tears or so, become the newest democracy fiasco in the world after Iraq.

If Obama hadn't gone along with the Pentagon on Afghanistan he, as a Muslim and Kenyan, would have been pilloried endlessly by the corporate media. With the Koran burning and the massacre of 16 or so civilians by a crazed US soldier yesterday, no one will argue with Obama's recent pronouncement that 'it shows it is time for us to transfer responsibility' to the locals.

That is so true NCD, Greenwald isn't worth reading at all, because he is a troll, he spends his days calling everyone names, and asserting he is 100% correct about everything always. In fact he mostly writes about how brilliantly correct he is about everything. To Greenwald there is no nuance in the world it is all black and white with either or questions and either or solutions.

Sometimes I think the people that read his BS are just looking to be angry, depressed and outraged. Greenwald is no different than Limbaugh in so many ways, except that he certainly doesn't have the megaphone of Rush, thank God. 

Gingrich has responded to the tragic killing of civilians by a US soldier today, USA Today:

The former House speaker said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan "may not be doable," and said it is time for the United States to step back and assess its involvement in the entire Middle East region....He said it is time for China, India and other countries to take more responsibility in the Middle East.

This is shocking.

From a Party that up till now wants to 'win' in Afghanistan and go back into Iraq. And what happened to the war on Iran? Israel can't do it alone? Gotta go in on the ground anyway to find those nukes aimed at Israel? They are north of Qum or around there somewhere.

Maybe the oligarchs are finally realizing neither this country nor it's soldiers can stand more war, after over 10 years of it. China and India will not rush in I can assure you. The locals may finally be left on their own.

The Pentagon, 'progress is fragile and reversible' Petraeus and the other brass running this thing may finally have to bring the troops home.

It is shocking NCD, but I expect it from the likes of those cowards.  If McCain were President he would say no such thing and we might already be heading to Iran and they would all be applauding.

I do hope this helps us remove ourselves from Afghanistan, we can't win anything, we can change it either. Afghanistan is like a medieval throwback, all the micro-economic intervention in the world can't change a place that doesn't want to come into the 20th century, let alone the 21st century.

This is absolutely true though:

Maybe the oligarchs are finally realizing neither this country nor it's soldiers can stand more war, after over 10 years of it. China and India will not rush in I can assure you. The locals may finally be left on their own.

Agreed and well stated.

"That is so true NCD, Greenwald isn't worth reading at all, because he is a troll, he spends his days calling everyone names, and asserting he is 100% correct about everything always."

Uh, scusi, but did you or NCD bother pointing out one thing Greenwald was wrong about, or did you just spend your comments calling him names?

Why don't you start with how targeted assassination of Americans without judicial process serves the Constitution. Or how remote-guided drones that kill lots of civilians serve our foreign policy interest and effort in combating terrorism?

Or maybe address Greenwald's contention that lots of Democrats were against Bush detaining people without process, but now support Obama killing these people without process.

The terrorist desert mullah is dead, get over it. He was a very bad guy and not worth risking US lives apprehending alive in a country in chaos, Yemen. As long as Pakistani's are blowing each other up, Mumbai up, Kabul up and killing US troops and UN workers, hitting the lawless Taliban/Al Qaeda infested tribal zones with drones (with the apparent OK of the Pak gov't) is not tops on my list of worries.

In case you and Greenwald didn't notice, the guy we would have had if Obama lost wants to (1) stay in Iraq (2) bomb Syria (3) stay in Afghanistan forever, and McCain's current GOP cohorts are trumpeting their readiness to go to war with Iran. Obama is neither my idea of perfection, nor is he absolute Decider or King for life in this country. He is doing a hell of a lot better job than the last guy. I never called Greenwald a troll. I just said no one need read his often hysterical stuff, which I will not waste my time quoting to you.

 

Right, you didn't say "troll", you just said "Greenwald isn't right, he isn't even worth reading. He is as divorced from the real world as, say, John McCain, but in the other direction", and "hysterical"

So your idea of constitutional process is waived when a vewwy vewwy bad guy is in a "country in chaos", which would mean most 3rd world countries, certainly every war zone, and probably parts of LA, Philadelphia and __________ (add your favorite city to slam).

You ignore that Yemen typically does our bidding on anything and everything, unlike Pakistan. And whether killing lots of innocent people doesn't bother you because a few Al Qaeda get killed in the process, well, that's pretty sick, but more important, that's against international law. Which may not bother you either. Sorry for acting "hysterical"

Regarding Pakistanis "blowing each other up", in the same breath as "with the apparent OK of the Pakistani gov", Pakistan is trying to manage its tribal areas without indiscriminate killing. Yet drone strikes have been killing over 400 Pakistanis a year, mostly civilians - hard to win cooperation or "hearts & minds" with random killings, including little kids, isn't it?

But I guess it's just uncontrollable Pakistanis killing each other already, so we shouldn't worry about it

How Obama is doing a "helluva lot better than the last guy", I don't know. He followed Bush's exit strategy from Iraq - though tried to stay but Iraq wouldn't give immunity to our soldiers (we still have our state dept, Green Zone and private army to protect). And he defaulted to Petraeus & McChrystal on Afghanistan carrying on Bush's policy, while bolstering black sites like Bagram. I'm not judging Obama on being better than John McCain or Strom Thurmond or Glenn Beck - I'm judging him on being a social liberal democrat with humanitarian values. I wasn't expecting we were just choosing Ivan the Not-So-Terrible over Ivan the Terrible.

PS - are you saying Obama & Panetta are not currently abetting the rush to war with predicted times of war, and declaring Iran can't refine its own uranium for anything? Once again, Obama is declared a peacenik for being an iota less shrill than the Republicans or Netanyahu - which is how the rn's ight always moves the goalposts.

Remember when Paul Ryan's attack on medicare was considered horrendous & destructive? And then Obama came up with a "compromise" that fit most of Ryan's wants? Which turns the conversation from "cut medicare? no way" to "yes we need to cut medicare drastically, but not so drastically". Defend that thin line in November, Democrats.

So here we are on Iran - we won't launch missiles if Iran has an unknown capability for nuclear weapons, but we just might with a far-fetched improbable capability for weapons. Just wait until September.

If you 'don't know' Obama is doing better then Bush your evaluation stick must be broken. Good luck with getting Ron Paul into the White House.

FAIL. You're back to "I'm right, you're wrong" arguments. How about describe how Obama is doing better than Bush. I note:

1) Obama followed Bush's withdrawal plan from Iraq. Same.

(tried to leave troops in but Iraq wouldn't give immunity - expect Bush would have done same)

2) Escalated war in Afghanistan & Pakistan tribal regions. Probably same, though can score "worse" for Obama if makes you feel better.

3) Enhanced dark site prison cells in Bagram & elsewhere in Afghanistan. Same or worse.

4) Asserted right to kill citizens without judicial review and did so. Worse. (Bush only asserted right to detain citizens without judicial review)

5) Obama abandoned effort (or pretense) of closing Gitmo. Same.

6) Obama outfitted State Dept with own arms-wielding military contractors. Same or worse.

7) Has refused to meet with Iranian leaders, contends any refinement of uranium is a cause for sanctions, ignores inspections & reports from IAEA as to unworthiness of Iranian refinement for weapons-grade fuel, and uses Panetta to provide cover/acceptability of an Israeli first strike. Same except I guess hasn't said "Axis of Evil"

8) Obama has ignored habeas corpus rulings (Hamden et al) to assert no judicial process and indefinite detainment for executive branch-labeled "terrorists". Same.

Now how about play the game right, pull out your evaluation stick and tell me how Obama is doing better than Bush in concrete terms, not innuendo and Q.E.D. ipso facto hand-waving.

 

So did Obama win the war in Afghanistan that he escalated?  I must have missed the V-A day parade.

I hear things are going great. Rebuilding and such. 

Good times.

So, I'm supposed to be pleased that the US has an "effective warlord," I guess, eh? 

Oh, I get your point that he's better than some psychotic Republican, Doc.

But... hey America! Could you set the bar any fucking lower? 

Here's what bugs me about this. Day after day (after day)(eight days a week), I get to read blogs and columns about how Obama and the Dems are better than the Republicans.

And yet, in the view of many, both parties are now such shit that the US continues to lose ground, whichever one is in charge. 

A bit worrying, don't you think?

*

Watching the Dems and the GOP is like watching a couple in the really nightmarish stages that precede a nasty divorce. They're throwing shit at each other at parties, screaming and shouting and smashing shit up, their own but also other people's, they're trying to run each other over, stealing away with the kids one moment then dumping them on the other's step the next, ransacking bank accounts, badmouthing each other all over town - and always, ALWAYS, justifying it on the basis of the other one having started it, or being worse for the children, blah blah blah.

Hint? The town  world thinks both of your parties - and their backers - are shit-heads, America.

*

And when you get involved in the tit-for-tat between the parties, when you let your head slip down into the goo, here's the sort of shit you can end up saying.... about a warlord:

He's effective. Jobs get done. Victories get won. He's stronger. He's tougher. He's a good Commander in Chief. He has scruples. He weighs risks and rewards.  He has military virtues. He prefers peace.

Now, what you're doing is taking a guy who is... in your words... a warlord.... A warlord who also happens to be running the world's most powerful nation... ever... And you're tarting him up like he's an effective, Job One Gets Done, peace-loving, scrupled kind of guy... because... he's better than the other Warlord on offer.

You're pimping for a Warlord.

Now, if you read someone writing this sort of hymn to a Tough-But-True Warlord who happened to be a Putin, or a Somali warlord, or even a Mussolini, what would you think Doc? Would you say, "Oh, but Putin or Mussolini, they're SO much better than X or Y?" 

I mean, this Warlord just chucked due process out the window, according to you. So that he could more easily... kill America citizens. 

And - hint hint - the result of Iraq and Afghanistan looks increasingly likely to be, not a victory or a goal achieved or a "job done"... but rather, like disasters. Fiascos. With blood running from every orifice as the broken pieces smash into new alignments. 

This is a victory? This is a job well done? 

"Hey. Think how much worse things would have been if my husband had been driving when he crashed into the bus-stop."

Life is about unappetizing choices. Obama was stuck with the question of how to conduct wars that he couldn't start.

We're stuck with the choices between two candidates. Obama or a psychotic Republican isn't a hypothetical choice. It's one we're going to have to make. There's no one else who can get elected.

Let me boil the choice down to you like this:

Barack Obama can't be pressured into invading Iran to prove that he's "tough."

Mitt Romney surely will be.

"Life is about unappetizing choices."

Exactly.

Barack Obama can't be pressured into invading Iran to prove that he's "tough."

Mitt Romney surely will be.

Exactly.

I love it when I get the speech about "unappetizing choices." Especially from somebody who just wrote a blog about how his favourite warlord has just decided to remove the "due process" protections American citizens had against their government killing them... but apparently, since the other guys are worse, and he loves peace, hey, it's ok kids! 

Now, rather than engage in the endlessly dispiriting, <80 IQ American political debate about how "they only give us the two choices, see?"... we broaden things out jus a tad. A tad.

Yes.... you have choices on whether to support two main parties.

However, technically, there are also others.

Plus, not voting at all. 

However, in the main, it's the choice between the two.

But. You also get to choose how to support him.

And how strongly.

With a vote, money, volunteer time, word-of-mouth, etc. 

And you also get to accompany each of these choices with your voice.

Which can voice... your opinion. 

And there are a whole range of opinions you can voice.

And then  - mind-blowing, this bit - you can voice your opinions, more or less strongly. In fact, you can basically make them.... a condition.

A condition of your vote, or your money, or your volunteer time, or your word of mouth.

And this range of options open to you, as an American citizen, includes pressuring the President, his party and their other candidates, to not do X or to do Y.

I'd lay out a bit of modern American history for you, from pressures placed on FDR to the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements through the Environmental movement, but somehow Doc, I suspect I needn't boter, as you know it.

Mostly, I think you should go back and reread your blog. Then write another one. Because the one you have up there starts with something really worrying, done by your guy, to your constitutional protections... then moves onto the irrationality of the Republicans, who are psycho... but then oddly moves on to the view that the guy doing something worrying is actually ok, because he's a peace-lover, a job-doer, a victor, and so..... I guess that thing worrying you isn't that important anyway.

Cause he's a kind warlord.

 

So is this one of those, "Obama is the best of two unappetizing choices" posts, or an "All hail Obama, the great war master!" post?

Perhaps Obama can't be bullied into going to war with Iran.  But I suspect he'll do it anyway eventually, just because he thinks it's a good idea.

 

I agree with you, Doc.  The military steps that Obama has taken have all been impressive and competently executed.  If W had access to Obama's competence, the neocons might well have been able to realize more of their ambitions.  However, being smart about your ambitions is part of Obama's competence.  The intervention in Libya, which I opposed (and still oppose) is a prime example --  Obama had the achievable goal of ousting Gaddafi and he was okay with directing it from behind the scenes or even not directing it, so long as he was confident that the job would get done in the end.  And, the end was pretty brilliant.  It looked like it wasn't going to work but what he did was keep pressure on the regime until Gaddafi made a mistake and then, boom.  It's the exact opposite of the Iraq quagmire where much was promised and little was delivered.

And, of course, Obama didn't run for office as a peacenik candidate.  He ran as the guy too smart to have invaded Iraq, which was something his chief opponent, who had voted to authorize that war, couldn't claim.  A lot of people took that to mean that he was "anti-war," and that includes, as you say, his opponents.

Obama seems to know that, once you're in a war (and he had no choice about two of them, which he inherited) that your willingness to fight is a lot less important than your ability to fight well.

As a citizen, the good part about this is that I do really believe that Obama will not commit us to a war without doing the proper diligence.  If he says go, I will not suspect, as I did with Bush, that his wars will escalate or spiral out of control. 

At the same time, I'm not convinced that Obama won't get us involved in wars that I believe are unnecessary.  That might be an impossible standard, coming from me.  I will tend not to see things as necessary if there's not an army massed on our borders.  I might even let them take Montana first.

But I take some solace.  Obama wants to avoid dumb wars.  I think that most wars are dumb.  Obama and I will disagree, ultimately, on the threshold for dumb.  But having a president who refuses dumb wars definitely means fewer wars, no matter how you slice it.

Bill Clinton, by the way, did a good job on this front.  I could have dealt with not getting involved in the former Yugoslavia and with fewer lobbed Tomahawk cruise missiles in general, but his eight years were more peaceful than the preceding 12.

Jesus, Destor... it's touching as hell that all you guys have this grand personal faith that Obama is smart and peace-loving and all.... But aren't you troubled just a bit that a blog that starts out arguing that he, Barack Obama, has just tossed "due process" when it comes to killing Americans... ends with you arguing that you're confident that he'll show "due diligence" about who he decides to kill?

​Seriously. You and Doc and the rest seem ok with getting a constitutional neutering, because you trust the guy now rubbing salve over the place where he just finished his removal work.

​Gee. I can't see any problems with that. 

Other than when you get a guy in who you don't trust as much.

​Thank goodness that's not likely to ever happen though, eh?

No one would have suspected terrorists flying planes into buildings politicians abusing security provisions for power and fun. I'm sure President Mitt Romney will be very careful and sparing with those newly discovered targeted assassination powers the executive branch now enjoys. Duke Nuke 'em, the Oval Office version. Don't try this at home, kids - we're trained professionals.

Why is this not seen?

I think I am in complete agreement with this entire comment, Destor.

Damn good comment Des. Except for this!!!

I might even let them take Montana first.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. surprise

The agreement and timelines to withdraw from Iraq occurred under Bush.

There was a small escalation around the Afghani elections, and then withdrawal happened as Bush planned.

"But I take some solace.  Obama wants to avoid dumb wars." He's done little to avoid the dumb one in Afghanistan. The last Al Qaeda killed in Afghanistan was perhaps 18-24 months ago. We're there to encourage democracy? The American way? We're negotiating the return of the Taliban, so that can't be the excuse, can it? We haven't even kept down poppy production, arguably a much worse problem than the international reach of Afghani terrorism.

(Note that while the Taliban harbored members of Al Qaeda, Florida harbored all the pilots for over a year, and the US helped all the Saudi royals get out of the country with no questioning, except for this one who got out early:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2035199/Mystery-surrounds-posh-F...

http://www.browardbulldog.org/2011/09/fbi-found-direct-ties-between-911-...

Ah fuck it. I'm against all wars, "dumb" and otherwise.  All of 'em. (and frankly, I'm not sure how the hell anyone can tell the difference.) I suppose I'll be waiting a long time for a candidate, but it'll be well worth it.

We will be paying for Bush's wars for the rest of our lives. The dim witted, war mongering republicans are applauding death of innocent civilians. This moronic gop'er thinks it is funny. 

Doc, this blog is well written and well thought-out. I've been mulling it over for a few days, wondering what, if anything, to say about it.

My first two impressions were: 1) Everything you say is factually correct, as I remember it. Obama repeatedly talked about Afghanistan as the war we SHOULD be fighting and Iraq as the war we should never have started and should end as soon as possible. Perhaps so much else was being said during the campaign, this was overlooked.

Still, Obama might have taken the position that, had he been involved from the beginning he would have done a better job, but was not going to escalate after seven years of mis-management. IOW, he could have said the war was beyond saving and beyond repair by time he'd arrived and had a chance to get brief, etc. That would have been consistent with his campaign rhetoric, but allowed him to end the war.

FWIW, I don't hold it against him that he followed Bush's withdrawal timetable (didn't he speed it up a bit) in Iraq as some do above. After all, he DID do it, and there's no saying Bush would have. He deserves credit for the things he's done.

2) But my first gut impression was that, in this essay, you were trying to convince yourself to continue supporting someone who has disappointed you many times. Almost as if you were trying to talk yourself into supporting Obama this time. I have to say this was just a gut feeling, not one based on a close reading of your post.

For me, the decision is very simple: He's the better of the two options. This approach is now widely derided (see under Q) as settling for "evil." But do you want more evil or less evil? The question answers itself. I vote for the candidate whom I think is better.

Not voting is just another way of supporting the opposing candidate. Voting for, but not giving money or time to, is simply to push-pull. You give with one hand and take away with the other. If you truly want the better candidate to win, you give whatever you can to the better candidate.

I don't believe in withholding support, or threatening to withhold support, as a way of moving your candidate in a better direction. The threat is meaningless, because it makes no sense to follow through with it. It's a game of chicken in which you, not the candidate, may very well end up the loser. If your lack of support results in his defeat, YOU lose by not getting the better candidate as president.

Raising your voice to criticize your candidate--as Q seems to suggests--is the right way to go. If you still believe in your guy, then criticizing him long before the next election becomes pressing is better than doing it at election time. At election time, everyone has to pull together to get over the finish line.

 

But Republicans withhold support, and they do get candidates to turn in the wind or them.

Why is that a bad approach?

Instead, we swear our support while bitching, and wonder why the candidates don't change for us.

Though it helps for the Republicans that they keep playing chicken even when in the minority, so their scorched earth policy allows them to keep winning even as back-benchers.

You make a good point, but I'm not sure that's what they do.

This is what I think happened: Movement conservatism took over the Republican Party and pushed out the moderates in the political class and what might be called the moderate ideology.

They also changed the "conventional wisdom" on a bunch of issues, rightly or wrongly, consistently or not in ways that "made sense" to ordinary folk. One example: the analogy between the federal budget and household budgets.

So when candidates vie to be the "true conservative," they aren't playing to a faction of the party; they are playing to its ideological core which has been constructed, reinforced, and supported by think tanks and politicians and talk radio and FOX and WSJ over a long time.

In the Congress, it's not that they get so much done. It's more that they block things from happening.

Q lambasted me (his favorite approach) when I said this originally, but Republicans have an inherent advantage in that they want the government, always, to do less.

Yes, they make laws that move money up the chain, but they do that mostly by getting the government to do less, e.g., less regulation.

When government performs poorly, which is easier than government working well, they win. People don't say, "But government was underfunded." They say, "See? Government is a fuck up. Let's get rid of it. Why are we throwing away our money?"

Solyndra is a good example of this reaction.

They certainly didn't do less in getting support for more military adventures and ag supports. And their win by obstructing isn't permanent - they obstruct until the other side caves to their demands. You might call them minority bullies, but they win a lot be being so. Look at the latest tie-ups around contraception. They have much of America thinking Obamacare is free contraception for sluts. Very creative at messaging that's for sure - whatever happens with Rush, the GOP looks to have gained from this.

Do you have some evidence that indicates much of America is thinking Obamacare is free contraception for sluts?  Nothing I've seen indicates such a claim.

I would have to say that it is interesting that there is an argument about Obama vs. the worse choice.  Of course, on foreign policy there is almost no difference.  To think Obama or any Democratic president that could be elected in the early 21st century would be otherwise is just naive.  Just as thinking that we haven't conducted assassinations or whatever one wants to call it every year (only now we are actually admitting it - which is actually a step forward) is naive.  The difference between the Dems and the Repubs has always been on domestic policy - things like contraception (and this then flows into foreign policy that is related to things like providing contraception in the developing countries, which is no small thing from an environmental perspective to war over scarce resources over water). 

One can evaluate Obama based on one's ideals - and this is important evaluation.  But then one has to evaluate Obama based on the system as it is.  And then balance the two evaluations.  And so it goes.

If the other guys are trying to rig the system as it is, and we're just trying to accept the system as it is, which side will win?

I guarantee you, the only defining message that came out of the contraception brouhaha is "why should government be providing free contraception?" Liberals lost.

Of course "government" is not providing this - insurance policies that cover myriads of health issues do, and they're mostly paid benefits of employment, not entitlements.

But we didn't get that point across.

And health care covers vasectomies, Viagra, fertilization treatments, and a variety of other reproduction- and non-reproduction-related conditions, including contraception purely as hormone treatment for menopausal women, treatment of cysts, etc.

But we didn't get that point across.

And contraception prevents the mythical "welfare babies" as well as unwanted children for people who can or can't afford them, saving society a host of troubles.

But we didn't get that point across.

Instead, we just fought back against "you shouldn't call women sluts". Which is a soon-forgotten victory as soon as the woman is Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Ann Coulter, or other figure on "the other team". It's like telling someone not to cuss.

As Bill Cosby said, ".... Right".

 

 

You are factually incorrect. Even the Washington Times admits that the war on Contraception is a losing battle for Republicans.

Their fight with President Obama over contraceptive coverage is becoming a losing battle for Republicans, a significant chunk of whom reject GOP leaders’ stance that it’s a fight about religious liberty, according to the latest Washington Times/JZ Analytics poll.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/5/gop-on-losing-side-of-bir...

The New York Times reports centrist women are disenchanted with the Republican party because of their attack on contraception and women.

“We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago,” said Ms. Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican of the moderate mold.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/us/politics/centrist-women-tell-of-dis...

The AP story  March 5, 2012:

Focus on birth control, fallout from Rush Limbaugh and gaffes putting GOP rivals on defensive

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/focus-on-birth-control-fallout-fr...

George Will, Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan have all admitted this hurts Republicans.

Your entire assessment is incorrect, and you've offered nothing to back up your assertions of this as a total loss for Democrats.

The latest NYT/CBS poll seems to support Peracles' contention:

51% say employers should be able to opt out of birth control coverage on moral or religious grounds. 40% say they have to cover it. That's a pretty significant majority for the GOP position.

http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/324884/new-york-times-cbs-poll.pdf

See questions 73-76 on page 22.

But it is interesting that the GOP pundits and the press are nevertheless presenting this as a loss for the GOP, even though they are objectively winning the battle for public opinion. I think the pieces you cite above are more representative of the pundits' and journalists' own views on the issue rather than an indication of what the broader public's view is.

 

And it's interesting (sad) that we've moved from abortion being controversial to contraception being objectionable. I don't know why exactly they want to do that, but every chance they get to punch a hippie and proclaim liberals are just for drugs, sex and unemployment is a cheery in GOP-land.

(more on planned parenthood later)

Not so Anonymous, Republicans are losing this debate, and it is still true and remains true that Peracles offered only opinion, and nothing to back up his opinion, you've included one poll, which is an outlier to all the other polls available on this issue. Contraception is a winning position for Democrats and losing for Republicans.

You can't site one outlier and nothing else, and make the claim that you are correct. It is interesting you have taken the Limbaugh approved analysis of the poll tho'. Too bad the contraception debate hurts Republicans, big time. No matter what Limbaugh and Dreher write.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-14/republicans-losing-on-birth-con...

 

Not sure why you're calling it an outlier. Your Bloomberg poll doesn't seem to contradict the NYT poll. Bloomberg only asked about people's preferred framing of the issue. So with Bloomberg and the NYT poll I linked to, we get a picture where people seem to frame the issue in terms of 'access' AND ALSO think that employers shouldn't be obliged to pay for that 'access'. There's no conflict there. It's a pretty consistent - if depressing - picture.

Here's the most complete list of recent polling on the subject that I can find.

http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

But if you can find something better, do post it.

Winning on framing and losing on the substantive policy issue seems like a Pyrrhic victory at best, no?

I wonder, though, how they feel about insurance companies being required to pay for it.

Wouldn't it be a novel idea if people actually got the facts on this 'cost'?  What is the premium differential for employers between coverage that includes women contraception options v. without same.   Now that is something we all should want to know.......

It's always difficult for me to ascertain stance on issue if I don't have the pertinent facts/truth.

My understanding, such as it is, is that it's cheaper to pay for contraception than for a pregnancy/birth.

If true, insurance companies (and those who pay them premiums) should all be for this coverage.

But sometimes, these "obviously true" points turn out to be incorrect.

I think it's undeniably cheaper to pay for contraception than pregnancy/birth. However, it's (probably) cheaper still to get the woman to pay for the contraception herself. I added "probably" because the unknown factor is how many women would use contraception if their insurance company paid for it but not if they have to pay for it out-of-pocket. I suspect that number is actually fairly small, but that's pure speculation on my part.

Good question. There ARE a whole lot of unplanned pregnancies. In some cases (like my cousin) they are using birth control, but get pregnant anyway.

With poorer or less informed women, it might make a difference. They probably don't have health insurance at all right now, so first they'd have to figure out how to use the darn thing and then learn how to use contraception.

I may be selling them short, but my wife works with pregnant teens, mostly poor latinas who are pregnant at 14, 15, 16 and up, and they don't know nothing bout it and have no one to turn to.

If you check out that poll-aggregator site linked to above, there's an ABC/WaPo poll with that question where people say THEY SHOULD, 61 to 35. Which is a huge majority. So it looks like most people accept a mandate on insurers and not on employers. Make of that what you will...

Public Religion Research Institute:

  • Roughly 6-in-10 Americans say that publicly held corporations (62%) and religiously affiliated hospitals (57%) should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception. A slim majority of Americans believe that religiously affiliated colleges (54%), privately owned small businesses (53%), and religiously affiliated social service agencies (52%) should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception.  Only 42% of Americans say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage to their employees.
  •  
  • Catholics overall are generally more supportive than the general public of the contraception coverage requirements. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say that publicly held corporations should be held to this requirement.  Roughly 6-in-10 report that religiously affiliated social service agencies, colleges, hospitals, and privately owned small businesses should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception.  Less than half (47%) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage.
  •  
    • White Catholics make few distinctions between churches and other religiously affiliated employers. Less than half of white Catholics believe that churches (43%), religiously affiliated colleges (43%), social service agencies (44%), and hospitals (48%) should be required to include contraception coverage in their insurance plans. However, a majority of white Catholics believe that non-religiously affiliated employers, including privately owned small businesses (55%) and public corporations (61%), should be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.
    •  
  • White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group that opposes requiring any type of employer to provide their employees with no cost contraception coverage. Majorities of white evangelicals believe that most types of employers should not be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception, including religiously affiliated colleges (56%), hospitals (55%), and social service agencies (59%), privately owned small businesses (56%), and churches and other places of worship (64%). Half (50%) believe that publicly held corporations should also not be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.
  •  
  • With the exception of publicly held corporations, less than half of Americans who attend religious services at least once a week believe that other types of employers should be required to provide employees with health care insurance that covers contraception.

But I know, you all have  your one New York Times outlier poll. Other polls cannot be considered because they indicate that Republicans are taking a bit hit with women.  LOLz on that one.

Thanks for that. I hadn't seen this one. I suppose the two polls could be reconciled. In the NYT poll 51% said "not all" employers should have to cover contraception, and in the PRRI survey only 42% said even churches should have to cover it. So maybe in the NYT poll, the 51% just had in mind an exemption for churches...? Dunno. But intriguing.

In any case, now we have exactly two relevant polls (post slutgate, asks the specific coverage question, etc). I think we'd need a third to establish which one - if any - is an outlier, no? And also we'd need a third to establish whether Peracles was 'factually incorrect' as you claim. Let's see who finds one first, shall we?

;^)

The source you linked to said Democrats weren't gaining much from it:

"the poll indicates that they [Democrats] aren’t benefiting from it in respondents’ perceptions of the two parties. "

So should we believe your sources or not?

Beautiful, you continue to amuse. 

From your Bloomberg article, to answer your "Republicans are losing this debate":

While Democrats have charged that the Republican position amounts to a “war on women,” the poll indicates that they aren’t benefiting from it in respondents’ perceptions of the two parties. The survey also suggests that the advantage Democrats have historically enjoyed among women may have narrowed.

And sorry for just offering opinion without quoting the Washington Times or something to back it up. Though perhaps if you peruse comment threads and sexist comics, you'll notice the theme "government paying for women to have sex" recurring. While it's a gross framing, stuff like this is catnip for conservatives. The religious issue is only secondary, even though obviously important for some Catholics & evangelicals.

PS - my impression is women find Santorum quite icky.

Factually incorrect?

Your referenced poll is about "religious freedom" - that's not the issue I raised.

I said they were winning on "why should government be handing out free contraception?"

It's about opinions and messaging, and not necessarily today's results.

It means it helps their anti-government, anti-healthcare message long term.

(PS - if you read the results backwards, you see that even the religious freedom issue pleases 70% of the party, and probably much more for the evangelical base.)

You've shifted the discussion here a bit, but I'll follow.

First, military spending always falls into a different category. The federal government is mandated by the Constitution to take care of military/defense matters. Unlike many liberal programs which, I'd argue, are in there, but less explicitly. It's a harder argument to make politically. You have to frame it right.

Second, fear is a huge motivator. As soon as you hit the fear button, wallets open up. Add to it slogans like "what price freedom?" and you have a winner.

As far as ag supports go, they are old, old, old programs which largely fly beneath the political radar except in the farm states. And in some cases, Democrats from farm states join in boosting those supports. I believe Tom Harkin does, for example. Yes, it gets brought up in budget debates, but it never gets any traction.

So supporting the military and farmers is a bit like supporting apple pie. And if you come out for boosting spending on those areas, you're really just saying you want to bake another pie.

As for everything else, Republicans tend to want to do less--unless that less can be shown to be baked into the apple pie. SS and Medicare are good examples of this. So even when they're trying to cut or do away with, they talk about boosting, saving or preserving those programs.

Your contraception example makes my point. It's much easier to block or disrupt a program to do more than it is to pass the program. And that's the game Republicans have honed to a fine art. I THINK it comes from having been the minority for half a century. They know how to fight effectively with less, and since they are almost always for doing less, they have that advantage.

I haven't read the links below, but I imagine when the issue is framed as the government giving out free contraception, most people, who I guess mostly pay for it out of pocket, recoil from that. When it's framed as necessary health care, they feel better about it, but still might want women paying a co-pay.

But it's not well-known that hormonal contraception is used to treat diseases. I didn't know that until Fluke came forward, and I imagine it still hasn't penetrated the public brain.

But beyond all this, I believe (though I'd have to check) that polls show that support for the Republicans has gone down significantly among women as a result of the contraception and vaginal probe "debate." Even among Republican and independent women.

I think Republicans THINK it's a winner for the reasons you state and the freedom of religion argument--but on the whole it's been a loser. Arguably, Santorum lost Michigan for this reason. And I think all the Republican candidates are trying to pivot away from contraception altogether--though it's tough for them, especially for Santorum, to do.

My take: a lot of people find talking about contraception embarrassing. They want it, and are happy to have insurance companies pay for it, but they don't want to talk about it. So whichever party is perceived as keeping the discussion alive is playing a losing game.

I'm not sure any of this addresses what I tried to say, which is: 1) it's easier to block than to build; 2) they don't win by hanging tough and pure. They win by hanging tough and pure in the service of a "common wisdom" that movement conservatism has nurtured and protected through the other means I mention. I think this common wisdom may be unraveling a bit as Republicans jump the shark, but it still has potency. Once upon a time, liberals owned the "common wisdom."

The Constitution no more anticipated a standing army with its "provide for the common defense" than it anticipated the current welfare system with its "promote the general welfare". I don't think either one is more of a stretch than the other, although I'm strongly in favor of supporting the latter over the former. When it comes to "[providing] for the common defense", I'd like to see more make the argument that the FDA and EPA are a component of that clause, too, as well as "[promoting] the general welfare".

That doesn't mean I disagree with the fact that most of the public seems to see it the way you describe it.

I keep straining to keep my original point in focus.

I'm not talking about what one could or should argue on the merits.

I'm talking about what I THINK broad opinion would be on this point. I'd have to check, but I believe we've had a standing army for most of the last century, though it grew considerably bigger after WWII with the national security state.

But I'm 60, and it's been that way for all of my life.

Once the fear button is pushed, almost all people cave. But when it comes to government providing life benefits to people, the argument easily gets shanghaied. Just take a look at what Peracles is saying about how people feel about government, or even employers, paying for people's contraception.

No, I get it. That's why I added my last sentence. I just wanted to make it clear that the "broad opinion" is without merit.

However "easier to block than build" is a bit of sour grapes - under Bush, the GOP shoved through every initiative they wanted - heavy tax cuts, No Child, AUMF, prescription drug bill, TARP. Dems only managed to block late in the game, with the overreach on privatizing Social Security.

In any case, I think you're catching on to my main point, which is that with contraception we might seem to have won a feel-good battle defending the honor of women, but they've put a reverse on the attitude towards contraception and sex that will carry on for a good long time and do a good deal of damage.

Not sure why you called it "sour grapes."

I think we'd have to look at the dynamics in each of the cases you cite.

But just because Democrats didn't block doesn't mean it isn't easier to block.

This is getting a bit convoluted, but a tax break falls into what I mean by "doing less." You're letting people keep more of their money and making government do with less.

TARP and AUMF fall under the fear button, I'd argue.

No Child and prescription drug are ripe for Democratic support, right? I believe Teddy supported the former and only decried the fact that it wasn't paid for. The same goes for the latter, though I can't remember whether he was still alive.

Actually, with both TARP and prescription, the Republicans have disavowed their past in the name of a renewed dedication to conservative principles. You can't find hardly a Republican who speaks well of Bush or voted for him.

The current crop of conservatives would not have passed No Child nor prescription drug, I believe.

Again, I'm not arguing that Republicans don't do things in Congress, just that what they do tends toward having the government do less, except shovel money upwards and maintain traditional or longstanding functions, like ag. That's not "nothing,"  but it's a trimming back or limiting.

Of course, when they ACTIVELY try to dismantle some programs or replace them with new ones, then they run into problems (see SS and Medicare). Like the fact that Americans like government doing certain traditional things. So there, the advantage goes to the Democrats, even if they don't press it.

But here again, I'd argue that one reason they don't press it is that the Republicans have captured a certain chunk of the common wisdom even on these programs, e.g., that they're broke or will soon be and need major restructuring and fixing.

Democrats feel they have to ritually genuflect in the direction of this common wisdom--to deny it is to tell people something they "know" isn't true. So, in their responses, they look like they're trying to bend without breaking. But you'll notice that there's lots of complaining that the Democrats haven't come up with their own plan to fix SS and Medicare and they're "irresponsible," and so on.

(Democrats foot drag on coming up with their own plan to "fix" these programs, which is a kind of blocking. They aren't supporting the Republican program, and they aren't giving the Republicans a target or a new meme to hang around the neck of the Democratic party. Republicans try to counter by claiming the Democrats are just kicking the can down the road, and so on.)

My point boiled down is this: You can hang tough when you've captured the common wisdom. It's less about political toughness and more about riding the tidal wave of political and everyday opinion. See Nixon's "we're all Keynesians now" and some of what Ike said to see how this worked when liberals had the advantage.

My subsidiary point is that Republicans have an inherent advantage in that they want government to do less, except where it comes to what might be called traditional functions like the military.

And where they want government to do more, e.g., shovel money upwards, the issues tend to be obscure, or hard to understand, and they don't pay much of a price for them. Who really understands the impact of certain tax programs? The middle class have been getting squeezed since the 1970s, and yet it's taken this long for people to bring it fully into focus and articulate the problem. And even then, it's easy for the argument to get derailed by false issues such as jealousy of rich people.

They are partly creating the tidal of opinion.

But agree that a goal of dismantling and underfunding government is much easier than trying to make government work.

 

Peter, I didn't read the piece as an apologia. Dr. C drew a distinction between militant swagger and military leadership. I think it's an important one, regardless of whether one supports Obama's decisions, and he's right that Republicans' attempts to portray Obama as weak are way off base. But I don't have as deep an opposition to American military action as some, so perhaps that's why I read it that way.
 
On the other matter, I agree with Peracles in that I don't see any inherent difference between criticism of Democrats from the left and criticism of Republicans from the right. The right wing has repeatedly sabotaged Republican political objectives in its quest for conservative purity, and they're doing it right now in the primary.
 
But there is an advantage in such sabotage. By eliminating the center right, they've transformed American politics into a battle between the center left and the far right. Given that dichotomy, it's inevitable that the far right would gain power and popularity, even if they've lost a few battles that the center right would have won.
 
On the other hand, the left wing has not been nearly so effective in diminishing the power of the center left. Criticizing Obama may not hurt the left, but it has done little enough to influence him or to break the center left's dominance of the Democratic Party. The right wing's movement started at the grassroots--in congressional elections, school boards, judges, states, and municipalities. That's how they built the movement you mentioned. The left has failed to replicate it. OWS is a step in the right direction, and it had a significant impact on the national dialog, but it has failed so far to build a sustained political movement to influence the local elections that determine the Democrat Party rank-and-file.
 
In short, criticism of Obama amounts to sound and fury. Politics starts from the bottom.

He's doing OK because he left all of my policies in place and they led to good outcomes just like I knew they would. that makes me the war leader and him the war follower.

and it is that kind of simplistic analysis I would expect from the decider.

Say it, dude, you want to, I know - "Obama is The Decided". There, I said it for you.

I stand with kyle flynn and say these wars just suck.

They don't even meet the Henry Kissinger measure of preserving influence over people who intend to hurt us.

 

 

i can't base a foreign policy on whether it sucks or not. sometimes one has to do what sucks. that's life.

My comment was simple, simplistic really, expressing frustration more than insight. I will try harder this time.

I am not a pacifist. I get that "national security" is about securing resources for our system as well as promoting an international environment where we get to live as we have done. What is deemed necessary to achieve those ends are the basis of the strategic decisions that get made. Using the inverse of the Obama expression, a "smart" war does what has to be done, as you say.

But necessity in this sense is not self evident in the way blocking a punch is when it is coming at you. We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, not the other way around. We made them a part of a story where they seemed to be invading us.

In addition, there is divergence that happens between overt and covert objectives in war because of two unalterable conditions; successful fighting is based upon unbalancing the enemy; wars need to be marketed because they require incredible amounts of money. But how long can one hide one's "real" intentions?  After ten years, a covert objective might as well become a protocol for the Department of State.

After enough time, it isn't war anymore. It becomes diplomats with automatic weapons.

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