So as expected, Obama became the latest American War President this week. He was one already by virtue of being the Commander-In-Chief of an army engaged in two wars. But it was made official because of his embrace (however reluctant it appeared) of the battles he inherited.

So 30,000 more troops and 18 months to “finish the job” that 8 previous years have failed to put on dent on.

What was he thinking?

Well, politically the plan is masterful. Even brilliant. First he acquiessed to the demands of the Generals which endears him to the military brass. But it also allows him to blame them if it all goes haywire in 18 months.

Second the plan relies on a lot of moving parts Obama can only influence from far, but cannot directly control: The Afghan government, the Pakistanis, The NATO allies, the Taliban. And precisely because of that he can blame them anytime it becomes politically expedient, declare victory an leave.

Third the July 2011 timetable, almost a year and a half away from his re-election allows him to play to all political affiliations. To the Republicans he will say “I did not cut and run. I stayed the course and took the fight to the terrorists!”. Even if they complain about the very presence of an exit date (as they are currently doing), they will commend him for fighting on. To the hardcore anti-war Liberals he will say: “I have an exit date. I only decided to stay because we had to win this thing. I am ending it soon as promised and sending our boys home.” He could even order a few brigades home during the year of the election campaign as a show of sincerity.

Finally, he will remind Independents and all voters that he opposed the war in Iraq and is in the process of bringing it to a close along with the Afghan one. But he cannot run from the battle and that’s why, he will say, there are still some American troops occupying two Mid-East countries.

 After the election of course, if he is re-elected, he would then do whatever he wants written in the history books about the Obama Presidency . That’s politics. And for better but mostly for worse, Presidents are politicians first.

In the real world of war and occupation in Afghanistan, people will continue to die and the stupididty of Wednesday’s decision will ring true.

War is awful. Wars of choice are also awful but blatantly wasteful. Years from now, when the NATO armies have gone home and the Afghans are still grappling with their misery and the Al Qaeda terrorists are still terrorizing from some new cave in Namibia or Yemen or from a five-star hotel in a Western capital, we will wonder what all the dying was for. The idea of invading a single country and transforming it as a way of forever preventing a band of supposedly religious maniacs from ever commiting mischief anywhere else in the world was always silly. 30,000 more troops will not change that.

If you happen to have a few minutes, please follow the link below to watch PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal showcasing another President, Lyndon Baines Johnson grappling with the escalation of another war a few decades ago.

 The similarities are eerie.  

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11202009/profile.html

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