The Timidity of Hope

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16, New International Version.

Obama - Hope With Blood on His HandsIt should be no surprise* that our President decided to continue the 10-years war. The choice to order more thousands of our brave men and women in uniform to give their lives, and many more maimed and permanently scarred, is consistent with his presidency, his campaign promises and his life’s story. It is his war now. The choice to accept tens of thousands more innocent civilian lives to be lost or ruined as collateral damage is one that weighed the risk of peace against the advice for war against the political climate in Washington at odds with the history of Afghanistan.

Why is ordering peace so hard? The needs here at home are evident. Most Americans want the war to end. The spun reason for the conflict has been achieved. Must we stay in Afghanistan to wage clandestine war in Pakistan? Are the bordering countries of China, India and Iran not strong enough to control their neighbor? Or is it some lingering fear and presumptive need to have our forces pre-positioned surrounding Iran? Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the presence of our forces surrounding Iran may make a future conflict more likely?

Our President does not have the audacity of hope that he once so successfully promoted. The lessons of Mohandas Gandhi, Thoreau and Dr. King have been lost in his parsing compromise. Violence begets violence. Peaceful civil disobedience takes too long (suggested search terms: bombing campaign Libya). Wars not paid for and fought without the draft with the drones seem so easy. Or, is it simply that no sitting President has ever lost reelection during wartime?

This President is a pragmatist. He didn’t fight for healthcare reform because of the 40-50 million Americans without health insurance. He fought for a bill, any bill, because the GAO told him that costs were out of control, and until healthcare was reformed, our country could not have a balanced budget.

He didn’t allow green initiatives to be included in the stimulus bill because it was right for our country or our planet. He did so because it could create jobs and would make members of the House, who actually believe, placated for a while.

He didn’t promote Wall Street reform because of the grotesque change in the distribution of income in our country, or the outrageous profits made from no-interest Fed money. He supported the reform bill, any bill, in an attempt to prevent another meltdown. He has since backed away from the reform and strong rules his administration gets to write, because the economy is stagnant and banks are tanking.

Obama is also likely to accept the Republican demands to undo three-generations of Democratic achievement on social policy – even without a tax increase on the wealthy or getting rid of needless, mindless subsidies for corporations – because failure to pass the debt extension could destabilize world financial markets. That, and keeping the Republicans on track to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid increases the likelihood of winning the next election and while providing the cover to undo any budget deal in the next Congress.

There was a time that I thought that Rahm Emanuel was the force that had him compromise his beliefs for a pragmatic government. I was wrong. Obama never believed.
* In a previous story, I wrote that he would be out of all of wars by the election. I was surprised that things in Obama’s world changed so dramatically in such a short time.

13 thoughts on “The Timidity of Hope

  1. glenn overman

    Cherchez l’argent!

    It’s always about the money, no matter what you think it’s about. Everyone is on TeamBusiness.

    There is no longer the pretense of real patriotism or democracy. Forget the fact that we already have socialism under the pretense of being business friendly; we finance them, we just don’t benefit from it as in a truly socialist state. If you think that’s wrong, just examine the NFL.

    Rule One: It’s always about the money.

    Rule Two: If you don’t think it’s about the money, you haven’t looked deeply enough.

    Rule Three: If it’s not about their money it’s about their friends’ money.

    But I digress; it’s about the money.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Are you referring to the billions we give Karzai or Zardari? Or the 104,100 (last count I could find) military contractors (aka: mercenaries; Hillary’s private army) we have in Afghanistan (no discussion on pulling them out)? Or the money for bullet, bombs and drones? Or just the campaign contributions?

  2. Dave Cooley

    I’m surprised and disappointed that you are giving up on Obama.
    I don’t see any one among the Republican hopefuls that can beat him.
    Do you?

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      I have not given up on President Obama, but am disappointed. Describing him as a “pragmatist” is not generally an insult. Most of the decisions a President needs to make for the “good of the country” should be pragmatic ones.

      As for the Republican hopefuls, I do not expect any of the candidates can be “beat him” in next election, but it is one he could lose.

  3. David Evans

    I also am disappointed with the “skinny guy.” Years ago in another universe as I sat waiting on the tarmac of Tan Son Nhut air base for the big plane to take me and other GIs out of Vietnam, it was obvious to all of us grunts that the only workable policy in that god forsaken place was to bring in more planes before other hapless brothers died for no reason other than some illusory reasons beyond rational comprehension. In hindsight (and I’m glad the view in that mirror has considerable distance), I’ve made my own personal peace with the military, even as a draftee in a far different Army that we have today. But the value, however that is measured in warrior games, is far offset by the occupational hazards. Something akin to hanging by your thumbs in Tibet…I’d rather read about it.
    So in conclusion, I applaud your editorial and only wish that the chicken-hawks and wannabe warriors could spend a day on the battlefield to temper their enthusiasm for conflict. As the saying should have been, “Old soldiers never die; young ones do.” And with their loss, so many more are maimed beyond the bounds of description. Countless lives either lost or changed forever. The combatants, their loved ones, and the children they never had all lost in an ancient and uncomprehending fog. Memento mori.

  4. Monica Smith

    It was always the “audacity of hype.” Nevertheless, the importance of the President is grossly exaggerated by both Democrats and Republicans, mainly because popular government isn’t attractive to either party. A sovereign or leader is convenient for petty potentates to hide behind. The Capitol Hill Gang don’t want government by the people. Which is why the vast majority of the population have to be kept in a state of deprivation and intimidation.
    Obama’s position on Iraq was always suspect once he declared it a “dumb war.” The U.S. presence in Afghanistan continues to be prompted by the fear of a “rising China” and a “resurgent Russia,” whose resource management strategy still conflicts with the American interest in private property and the conversion of natural resources into profit. Whether our resources are to be used to benefit all the people or enrich just a few is still unsettled. That the question is being asked is, I think, progress.

  5. Jack deJarnette

    As Sarah Palin said, “How’s that working out for you?” Don’t get the mistaken notion that I am a Sarah Palin supporter and as a once Republican and not quite Democrat, my hope rests on a higher power of some sort to take control and get us out of this funk we are experiencing. If I recall our government is by the people, of the people, and for the people. We are the higher power, when will we wake up and put the Country above ourselves?

  6. Daniel Flynn

    Thanks, Lee. It reminds me of how it was so difficult to get out of Vietnam. We had to have ‘peace with honor’, whatever that meant, at the cost of over 56,000 American lives, not to mention the millions of innocent victims in Vietnam. Afghanistan is as hopeless a hell for U.S. military action as Vietnam was. Today, without the U.S. military, Vietnam is a young growing Asian country. A friend of mine teaches International Business to highly motivated young college students there. Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex. It has to have war somewhere. Sad. Dan

  7. Will Cantrell

    Lee, I read your fine and compelling article with great interest. As you will recall, I am an unabashed fan of the President – and his intellect. Honesty and full disclosure compels me to admit that I too, am very disappointed by his recent decision on Afghanistan. Very disappointed. I am consoled by reminding my self that governance is a lot harder than campaigning. A lot different too.

    The President still has my support – and my vote in 2012, as I can see no one on the political horizon --or anywhere near it — whose intellect that I trust more than Barack Obama’s. I also try to be consoled that in the view of the pundits and political observers, decisions are binary: You’re either in Afghanistan or you’re out; You either vote for Obama or you vote for say, McCain or Romney. There is a clear choice in an election. In the real world – the pragmatic world-- the choices are hardly ever clear, neither are they black or white; OFF or ON. Decisions such as ‘Afghanistan are never easy and always colored some putrid shade of gray. Good piece. Thanks for writing it and saying something that needed to be said, even if like me, one’s politics are usually left of center. Will

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      I sincerely believe that if we should not sit quietly and that criticism of our own party is even more important than that of the opposition. There have been many times that I have been an apologist our President. I have presented his arguments and my understanding of his reasons. He is our President now and I support him. I marched for him last time and worked, to the extent I could on his behalf and supported others who did. I plan to work for him again -- at least, on the get out the vote part. He has made many good decisions and many poor ones (especially when they had a majority in both Houses).

      The Afghanistan surge was to be on the Iraq model. When it failed in its first (and only) campaign due to high casualties, Petraeus changed strategies (with no speech to announce it). Other than nation building in the peaceful parts, all we do is nightly special forces kill/capture missions (similar to the Osama mission) using our black hawk helicopters delivering forces -- dozens of them each night -- into residential areas of Afghanistan to break into private homes (where their families live, too) of those suspected to be sympathetic to capture and interrogate/torture or just kill them (officially, we killed more than 12,000 in raids during the past 12 months). We are doing more harm that good. They hate us more than ever. It is terribly wrong. If they did this in Atlanta, I dare say, I’d spend the rest of my life hating them. It needs to stop.

  8. Mark Dohle

    I remember the night Obama was elected, it was such a powerful experience. However the reactions of those I was with and also those that were there when Obama gave his acceptance speech, made me nervous.

    Perhaps if is just me, but when Obama gave his speech I sensed that he was very nervous over some of the expectation being expressed by those who voted for him. Calling him the ‘chosen’ was a big mistake and I blame the press for that. I remember him saying that it would take time, yet I think he sensed that many thought the next day things would suddenly change for the better.

    I have a very bad feeling that we will be at war for many years to come. Obama made a lot of promises before his elections that he was not able to keep, this happens every four years, why are we ever surprised?

    I think Obama is ‘owned’ just like all politicians, yet I also believe he wants to make a difference.


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