Monday, August 04, 2014

Obama Does Understand War, Which is Perhaps Why He is Vilified by Warmongers

Eliot Cohen whines in the Washington Post,
Abraham Lincoln hated war as much as Barack Obama does. He saw so much more of it firsthand, lost friends in it and waged it on an immensely vaster scale than Obama has. And yet, almost exactly 150 years ago (Aug. 17, 1864, to be precise), he wrote this to the squat, stolid general besieging the town of Petersburg, south of Richmond: “I have seen your dispatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible.” And so Ulysses S. Grant persevered.

Therein lies the difference between Lincoln and Obama, which explains much of the wreckage that is U.S. foreign policy in Gaza and elsewhere today. Lincoln accepted war for what it is; Obama does not. The Gaza war is a humanitarian tragedy for Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire. It is also a barbaric conflict, as leaders of Hamas hide their fighters behind children while baiting their enemy to kill innocents. But first and foremost, it is a war, a mortal contest of wills between two governments and two societies.
In his eager regurgitation of propaganda against the Palestinian people, Cohen tells us more about himself than about the President. Hamas is vile enough without the endless justifications of the killing of Palestinian civilians, especially children. Perhaps that's Cohen's primary objection -- that people are looking at the morality and proportionality of the conflict, rather than buying into the "Anything goes" attitude that he would have us ascribe to Lincoln.

For all of his warmongering, Cohen can't bring himself to explain why the President is wrong, or what he should have done differently -- other than, perhaps, endorsing "more war" as a one-size-fits-all solution to world crises. Cohen complains that the President doesn't give rousing speeches that cause the nation to rally behind wars in nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, or to rally behind new wars in nations like Syria and Libya, never mind that the reason that the public doesn't presently rally behind wars is the pathetic incompetence of the administration he served. Cohen has conveniently forgotten that the President ran in part on an anti-war platform, his rejection of Bush's war of choice in Iraq, and that since McCain's defeat the nation at large has consistently rejected those who favor Cohen's views. Let the next Republican presidential candidate run on a promise of more and larger wars, regardless of their impact on the U.S. economy and let's see how far he gets.

The President is palpably smarter and more thoughtful than Cohen, which could explain part of the difference, but I suspect that the larger conflict is in fact that the President prefers to prevent or end wars, while Cohen is happy to play the role of the useful idiot.

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