Monday, May 02, 2011

Obama Accomplishes What Bush Failed to Do at Tora Bora

The mass murderer Osama bin Laden is dead. I have no idea where things will go from here. In 2002, George W. Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan and started transferring resources to the Persian Gulf. I still have no idea why we went to Iraq and wasted 2 trillion dollars on an ill-conceived enterprise.

I recognize that most Republicans will never come to terms with the Iraq blunder. The reality is that the United States has more serious problems than a two-bit dictator who clearly wasn't worth 2 trillion to get rid of.

But putting Osama bin Laden and al Qaida out of business was obviously something we needed to do and Bush didn't finish the job. He bamboozled all the Republicans and about half of the Democrats into signing off on Iraq. The lies of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are now part of history. What's done is done.

Juan Cole of Informed Comment has some good commentary on where things now stand in the Middle East. Here's his concluding paragraph:
Now that Obama has eliminated the monster Usama Bin Laden and vindicated the capability of the United States to visit retribution on its dire enemies, he can do one other great good for this country abroad. He can get us out of Iraq altogether. The US military presence there is the fruit of a poisonous tree. It will always provoke Iraqi Muslim activists, whether Sunni or Shiite or secular nationalist. And it angers the whole Arab world.

The Arab Spring has demonstrated that the Arab masses yearn for liberty, not thuggish repression, for life, not death and destruction, for parliamentary democracy, not theocratic dictatorship. Bin Laden was already a dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War and the age of dictators in which a dissident such as he had no place in society and was shunted off to distant, frontier killing fields. The new generation of young Arabs in Egypt and Tunisia has a shot at a decent life. Obama has put the US on the right side of history in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya (where I see crowds for the first time in my life waving American flags). People might want a little help from a distance, but they don’t want to see Western troops deployed in fighting units on their soil.

If Obama can get us out of Iraq, and if he can use his good offices to keep the pressure on the Egyptian military to lighten up, and if he can support the likely UN declaration of a Palestinian state in September, the US will be in the most favorable position in the Arab world it has had since 1956. And he would go down in history as one of the great presidents. If he tries to stay in Iraq and he takes a stand against Palestine, he risks provoking further anti-American violence. He can be not just the president who killed Bin Laden, but the president who killed the pretexts for radical violence against the US. He can promote the waving of the American flag in major Arab cities. And that would be a defeat and humiliation for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda more profound than any they could have dreamed.

I wish President Obama would pay more attention to the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. It's good to be a unifier but it's also important to be a pragmatist and an upholder of values that some on the far right keep forgetting.

I recognize that rational Republicans are not the problem in today's politics, I acknowledge that some rational Republicans voted for Obama out of protest against the tilt to the right by the Republican Party. I have no doubt that Obama's success against Osama bin Laden was helped by those in the military, CIA and foreign policy establishment who are indeed rational Republicans. But keep in mind that during World War Two, Roosevelt had many rational Republicans working for him as well. And yet Roosevelt pushed for such things as the end of colonialism, the building of the middle class and the curbing of the enormous power of America's wealthiest individuals.

I repeat what I've said before: right wing Republicans have no solutions, only bellyaches about things they don't like. It's time to take on the challenges our nation is facing.

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