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Obama vs. Obama on War Justification

Morgen on March 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Drudge is currently highlighting the similarity between President Obama’s justification for today’s military action against Libya with what President Bush had to say about Iraq at the commencement of the war (strangely, both on March 19). Equally striking I think are some similarities – and contradictions – between the President’s decision on Libya and his objections to action in Iraq which he laid out in his famous 2002 speech:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.

Ah, but the President has a clear rationale in the case with Libya – right? Sure he does. A rationale that boils downs to the fact that Gadhafi is a brutal, ruthless dictator who is threatening to butcher his own people. (People, it might be noted, who have taken up arms in an attempt to butcher him.)

And like with Saddam, Gadhafi poses no imminent threat to the United States or to his neighbors. And also like Iraq, critics have noted that we are now faced with a military engagement of undetermined length, cost, and consequences.

The key difference in this case, is that these critics do not include Barack H. Obama.

It’s not news to anyone I think that the Barack Obama of 2002/2003 was about as anti-war as any mainstream political figure could possibly be, especially in the wake of 9/11. But to further illustrate the point, here are some images – rarely seen I think – of another anti-war rally in Chicago in March 2003, just prior to the launch of the initial attacks on Iraq.

Look at the mob he was speaking to.

I think the contrast is pretty striking: in eights years he went from being a leading political figure railing against an “unjust”, “war for oil”…to launching his own attack on a Middle Eastern dictator and assuming his place amongst the proverbial horsemen of the apocalypse.

And yet I find little reason to credit the President for any evolution in thinking. Mainly because I think his dithering over this decision has cost lives and greatly reduced the probability of a successful outcome. Dithering which in all likelihood had something to do with his (self-determined) need to reconcile his own convoluted and contradictory foreign policy positions.

Frankly, I doubt his core beliefs have really changed much from 2002, and I fear we are not at all committed to victory. As evidence, look no further than the fact that the Administration seems to be doing everything possible to avoid defining what victory even means.

Some more food for thought, an exit quotation from Obama’s 2002 speech:

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

Wag the dog, anyone?

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Category: Politics |

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