Huffpost Politics
Sam Stein Headshot

Charlie Wilson Backs Obama, Challenges McCain On Iraq

Posted: Updated:

Now more of a movie icon than Washington power broker, former Rep. Charlie Wilson still maintains a key interest in all things political. And when it came time for him to vote in the Texas primary, the longtime Democrat and inspiration for the film, "Charlie Wilson's War," sided with the candidate he thought could best secure the White House.

"I voted for Barack Obama," Wilson, whose movie was released on DVD Wednesday, told The Huffington Post. "The main thing was that he just didn't draw the immediate ferocious opposition that Hillary does, although I personally like her very much. But I just voted for who I thought could win. Is that a bad thing?"

Indeed, for Wilson, the primary focus is not necessarily the policy differences between the Democratic candidates, but the ability of either of them to win. That's because, when it comes to the next president, the former congressman sees a myriad of international crises that President Bush created and that a Democrat must fix.

"I can't think of any capacity where [the Bush administration] hasn't erred as far as foreign affairs and diplomacy is concerned," said Wilson. "This idea that the neocons have that you go in and conquer the Arab countries that have somehow offended you, and all of the sudden the world is wonderful, is just the most absurd thing I've ever heard really."

Wilson's take on the matter is certainly well founded. His work in Congress, to secretly fund covert operations in Afghanistan, helped contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union, while his shot-down effort to get post-conflict aide for the war stricken country remains a disappointment.

And when it comes to surveying the current landscape, Wilson, despite being friendly with Sen. John McCain, expressed grave concerns with the Arizona Republican's approach to Iraq.

"It is very hard, with the exception of Germany and Japan, which is a completely different situation," he said. "I never heard of democracies being created at the barrel of the gun. People have got to want democracy. Perhaps the Germans and the Japanese, with their experiences with the harsh dictatorships they had, perhaps they wanted something else. But the Arabs, from my experience, is that they don't. My experience is that they prefer authoritarian governments."

It is, in a way, a difficult line for Wilson to take. One of the closing themes of his book and movie is that the United States had a moral obligation to rebuild Afghanistan after the Soviets left. And even Wilson admits there are parallels between that time period and the current U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

"We have a history of doing miraculous things and then having a very short attention span. And that is what happened [with the post-9/11 invasion of] Afghanistan," said the Texas Democrat. "It is a little bit of a stretch but it will also be interesting to see what happens in Iraq, in far as helping them rebuild their country, which we have personally destroyed. The Russians destroyed Afghanistan and we destroyed Iraq. I hope we at least try in Iraq, I hope we pull out in next year. But I hope we at least try to do the proper reconstruction there to give them a better hope... I think we need to have a certain military presence, but we don't need 160,000 soldiers to do it. I would like to see those resources put back into Afghanistan where the real terrorists were and are. And I think that if we had the type of military presence we had there before we took our eye off, I think we would have had bin Laden by now."

In order for these shifts to occur, Wilson argues, there must first be a broader refocusing of U.S. foreign policy. It begins, he theorizes, by having a Democrat retake the White House, followed by a renewed emphasis to the type of political bipartisanship and collaboration that allowed him to secure covert ops aid for Afghanistan. Ultimately, however, it requires America to "pull in its horns a little bit in order to rebuild its influence" within the international community.

Obama, he believes, is best suited for the task. But would Wilson like to be back in Washington to help? Not really.

"I miss my friends but I don't really miss being in Congress," he said. "I was there 24 years and as you know I had an active life there. And I won my war, so that's about all you can do. If you win your war and get a book published and get a good movie out of it, you've done about all you can do."

Register To Vote