The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necesarily of the Davis Clipper.
Nearly 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “In times of peace, the people look most to their representatives. In war, they look to their executive solely.”
Today, with the Middle East in turmoil, Jefferson’s writing holds true – and let the backbiting begin.
Although elections are seldom won based on foreign policy initiatives (It’s the economy, stupid!” declared Bill Clinton), we blame U.S. presidents when things go bad.
Lyndon Johnson was basically run out of office due to his support of the Vietnam War. Americans were war-weary by the end of George Bush’s reign, and he still gets blasted by many for his invasion of Iraq. Barack Obama initially ran on the idea of disengaging from the Mideast conflicts, and is now getting beaten up by Republicans for too hastily withdrawing troops.
Americans – including this writer – are frustrated: All the money, all the lives lost and soldiers injured, and yet religious fanatic terrorist groups are gaining ground and it is difficult to figure which faction is our friend or enemy. (The “good guys” in Iraq also have the support of the “bad guys” in Iran and Syria. Whom do we support – if any?)
Like you, I am not a foreign policy expert. Like most of you, I am not a pacifist, and, like many of you, I have supported American military excursions and later regretted it. I also know that Americans generally hate protracted warfare. (North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh once said, “you will kill 10 of our men and we will kill only one of yours – but in the end, it will be you who tire of it.”)
However, I dislike the partisan wrangling about Pres. Obama’s role in the current Middle East uprisings. In winding down the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president was only doing what the public told him to do. If anything, liberals are angry that he didn’t haul the troops out sooner.
The argument that he should have left sufficient troops in these countries until more stable governments could be formed and “insurgencies” wiped out is a Republican pipedream. The elected officials of these countries either asked us to leave or stay only under their terms. By and large the Arab world does not embrace democracy and isn’t thrilled with a U.S. military presence.
There are some wars we simply can’t win. Considering the tribal nature and religious hatred permeating the Middle East, I don’t believe any president – Republican or Democrat – could have made an appreciable difference by letting the conflict drag on with U.S. forces.
No, things are not turning out well, but I’m not going to target Pres. Bush for ousting Saddam Hussein or Pres. Obama for heeding the public’s desire to cut our losses and bring the men and women home.
Being president is not an easy job. As Henry Kissinger once said, one must weigh the reward of success against the futility of failure – and U.S. presidents only get one guess! Instead of pointing fingers, we should be more leery of future military entanglements and ask our presidents to focus on U.S.-centered challenges: economy, jobs, equality, and fairness.
Frankly, I’m more concerned about the “gangbanger” a mile away than I am an empty-headed religious nut in a city I can’t even pronounce.