Today, President Obama will land in Norway, where he will officially accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Now that the president has committed 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, my mild annoyance and amusement about the gag gift has sprouted into full-fledged outrage.
How can a president who is not only managing, but escalating, unnecessary wars receive an award as an agent of peace? Even more absurd is the reaction from the left, which has failed to call Obama on the carpet for the very policies and practices for which we lambasted President Bush.
Like George W. Bush, Barack Obama’s Afghanistan policy is rooted in a belief that military escalation and indefinite occupation are the keys to global security and the expansion of democracy. Like Bush, Obama has refused to substantively invest in Afghani jobs, housing and education — all of which are traditional keys to an effective counter-insurgency strategy. Like Bush, Obama has dipped into the reservoir of fear, scaring Americans into thinking that military aggression is the only thing that will keep Americans safe. Yet despite these and other eerie similarities to Bush, the anti-war left has sat on its hands while Obama operates.
Even more disturbing than Obama’s warmongering is the blatant calculation behind it. Unlike Bush, whose wrongheadedness was at least borne out of a coherent (though perverted) set of principles, Obama appears willing to act out of pure political expediency. After getting public pressure from his generals and bloodthirsty Republicans for his “dithering,” Obama finally caved to his rivals and sent troops. Then, in order to satisfy the anxious anti-war left, Obama promises a withdrawal date. Sound good? Sure, except for one catch: He never promised a completion of the withdrawal. In short, Obama, like Bush, has American troops and innocent Afghani citizens in harm’s way without a clear or reasonable exit strategy.
In fairness, Obama has never lied about his desire to go into Afghanistan. Now that Obama has fulfilled his hawkish promise, the ball is in our court. Were we against President Bush or were we against his policies? Were we against the war in Iraq or all unnecessary wars? When we elected Obama, were we looking for a new driver or a new direction? Based on what I’ve seen so far, the answer isn’t pretty.
– Marc Lamont Hill is a professor at Columbia University.
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