I have commented twice now on Obama’s total commitment to war. (See: Obama defends eternal war as he accepts an award for peace and For the Record: Obama’s War or Obama’s Re-Election?) Since then, I have tried to stay away from the news cycle and focus my writing here on simpler things that convey alternatives to the scourge of politics.
But sometimes reality imposes itself on you. Yesterday, I found myself helplessly standing in front of a television set when Obama stepped-up to the podium to give his speech on the status of General McChrystal and the war in Afghanistan.
What I heard him say was not surprising, to be sure. It did remind me, however, why I protest his presidency—why I did not and will not vote for him.
The content of the speech was not aimed at McChrystal or Petraeus directly. It was primarily intended to downplay the shift in leadership and overplay the American theology of war. Here is a critical re-cap.
(Also, to those who often claim that Vox-Nova says nothing critical of Obama, here is proof to the contrary.)
Obama begins by celebrating the breadth of war itself: “…war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.” Then, he celebrates his position as high priest: “I’ve got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief…” He continues these celebratory invocations with this: “America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”
Then, he attaches this militaristic theology to the political theology of (liberal) democracy.
It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.
At this point he begins his commentary on Afghanistan. Regardless of what one thinks about the descriptive case of that war, Obama’s ethics are clearly consequentialist and misguided. He strongly claims—in a tone reminiscent of his predecessor: “I have a responsibility to do what is — whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.”
Whatever is necessary? Really? This sick logic justifies a great deals of moral outrages, in this case the war in Afghanistan.
But there is more. Obama goes on to send a red meat, cowboyesque message to the American public: “We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere.”
Finally, there is an ironic, twisted ending. Regarding McChrystal, Obama says that “it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier who I’ve come to respect and admire.” Here, Obama cites the “loss” of this decorated general as a casualty of sorts.
Yet he never cited the growing death toll of soldiers and civilians. He never mourns those actually dead and dying.
Obama continues to show the incredible moral failure of his leadership.
Frequently, close friends of mine lecture me about this. They like to play the “wouldn’t so-and-so be worse” game. They like to pretend that the Republican liberal-capitalists are somehow cut from a different cloth than the Democrat ones. This might be a fun game, but I have no interest in playing.
Even if they are right—and sometimes I suspect they are—my feelings cash out something like this: if there is a significant difference between being kicked in the head with a steel toe boot vs. being clubbed by a lead pipe, then, regardless, I am not going to celebrate too much for the former.
I certainly won’t thank the boot for not being a pipe.