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John Brown

John Brown

Posted: November 27, 2009 03:02 AM

Americans Are Not Oxymorons: Reflections On President Obama's Afghanistan Plans

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President Obama's war in Afghanistan is, from a historical perspective, unique.

That's because what he's telling us, the American taxpayer, about this conflict is a notable departure from how the White House has traditionally "explained" most past US overseas military engagements to audiences here at home.

If you accept the arguments of Professor Susan A. Brewer in her recently published Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq, our 44th Commander in Chief's public handling of our military commitment to the Central Asian "graveyard of empires" is an exception to a recurrent pattern of the past: that US leaders since President McKinley have in fact sold foreign wars to Americans through propaganda -- "the deliberate manipulation of facts, ideas, and lies," as she defines it.

Instead of the crude, obscenely packaged fabrications used by his predecessor in the Oval Office to mislead us into the war in Iraq, Obama's tortuous deliberations on a military escalation in Afghanistan have been marked by officially announced doubts about why we should engage more soldiers in that part of the world in the first place; by leaks about opinions from the principals involved, so many of whom disagree with one another; and, from a narrow PR perspective, by an unwillingness (some would call it a failure) to craft a clear, simple, "saleable" message of "why we must fight" in a little-known land, thousands of miles from our shores.

Moreover, the USG "public diplomacy" to persuade allies to join the Pentagon's planned additional troop deployment in Afghanistan has, thus far, been minimal.

It will be interesting to see how, after all his months of "dithering" (as former Vice President Richard Cheney labels it) about his "war of necessity," Mr. Obama will justify his war (and yes, it is his war now) in the address he'll reportedly make on Tuesday next week at West Point.

My guess is that he'll continue, intellectual that he is, to avoid superficial slogans and simplifications (e.g., Bush-like "us against them" mindless cheerleading) but that, cautious lawyer that he also is, he'll try to persuade us "logically" and "logistically" that the only way for our troops eventually to leave Afghanistan is for more of them to become involved in that country's "rebuilding" (i.e., get killed for Allah/God/Jehovah knows why).

In other words, the "we-are-getting-in-to-get-out" argument. Let's see how Mr. Obama's Harvard Law School degree will help him justify that sophistic argumentation.

True, there are many precedents for presidential oxymorons -- take Woodrow Wilson's "the war to end all wars," for example.

Still, the "we-do-it-to-avoid-it" oxymoronic assertion is a hard one to back up, even to us, the "moronic" American public that bought Mr. Bush's Iraq misadventure, after it was marketed as a "product," like a "no-sugar" can of Diet Coke, a marketing oxymoron if there ever was one.

But, if you like Mr. Obama's war or not -- and most Americans don't, according to the latest polls -- what is historically unusual about it is how little it has been hyped by lies from America's Chief Executive.

But how I wish, as one of many millions of American voters, that such Obama "honesty" meant that what our hopeful (supposedly not "hypeful") president is doing -- and has been saying up to now -- made any sense at all to us!

 

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