June 27, 2011
Obama knows how to defuse antiwar sentiment. When pundits advised Lyndon Johnson to declare victory and leave Vietnam, LBJ didn’t listen and became too unpopular to stand for a second full term in 1968. Obama is taking the advice that LBJ ignored, but with a twist: He is declaring both victory and withdrawal without achieving either.
“Now, last night,” Obama told soldiers at Fort Drum, New York, the day after his June 22 policy announcement, “I gave a speech in which I said that we had turned a corner where we can begin to bring back some of our troops.” He did not say where and how that corner was turned, but the Obama Corner may be as elusive as Vietnam’s “light at the end of the tunnel.” No one who has spent time recently in Afghanistan believes for a moment that the Taliban is weaker or operates in a smaller territory than it did a year ago.
So it goes in Iraq and Afghanistan. What about Libya? Our humanitarian interventionists, who maintain as Hillary Clinton did that the war in Afghanistan is about building schools, are ignoring legal advice that the War Powers Act requires the president to seek Congressional approval for further engagement. The UN resolution empowered NATO to protect civilians; but France, Britain, and the US have gone one giant leap further and are now trying to force a regime change in Tripoli. Civilians are dying in greater numbers, and Gaddafi is holding out. Does that mean the US and its allies will go deeper into Libya, as they did in Afghanistan, until things are exactly as they want them? How long will that take, and how much will it cost? America’s mayors, who just voted a resolution calling for a withdrawal of money spent on foreign wars and diverted to their crumbling cities, would like to know the answer.