August, 17th 2009

Also re: change-- is Obama on Afghanistan emblematic of it, or not?

– Liz Mair

So... in addition to having his administration file briefs saying that DOMA is unfair but reasonably likely to be constitutional or somesuch, President Obama has also been busy touting his plans to continue and indeed expand US involvement in Afghanistan, a mission that has now gone far beyond its original purpose of tracking down and killing Osama Bin Laden (a purpose, I would add, that pretty much everyone accepted as good and sensible, unlike our stated purpose in getting into Iraq-- something I say with total disregard to my own complicated feelings about both subjects). 

My friend Jim Antle at the American Spectator senses a bit of change here, insofar as candidate Obama was pretty down on US military engagement abroad in the case of Iraq, defined by plenty of nation-building and other endeavors not consistently viewed as integral to ensuring the US' national security (two things that seem also to define current efforts in Afghanistan). 

My friend Alex Conant, with whom I served at the RNC last year, also presumably sees change, insofar as Obama may now be avoiding the political mistakes George W Bush made with regard to the domestic selling of ongoing US engagement in Iraq-- something that ultimately entailed a lot of the same sacrifices that ongoing US involvement in Afghanistan will, by virtue of it being a very tough locale in which to operate and there being a (more) complicated (than originally defined) mission involved, similar to the complicated mission that ultimately applied to Iraq. 

However, I think Jim, Alex and I would all agree that there's something not very change-y about Obama, who certainly came off to many voters (including some members of my own family) as more of a conservative realist than anything else on foreign policy during the campaign, as president pushing an increased troop presence in a tremendously tough theater where US efforts go far beyond the originally stated mission and veer into territory similar to that which he was seen to criticize George W Bush for dabbling in (admittedly, I would argue, somewhat in code-- one of the main counter-arguments I tended to make to those same family members was that candidate Obama was not claiming to be a non-interventionist; he was just saying he didn't like Iraq).  That's not to say I hope he fails, or that I necessarily agree or disagree with his or Bush's policies.  That's just a plain fact.  Obama promised change, but between the increased involvement in Afghanistan and the continued US presence in Iraq, it doesn't feel like there's a whole lot of it that has actually been put on offer.  How's that for some ongoing irony? [intro]


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