Columns, Opinion

SZAFRANSKI: Slow and steady wins the war

When former Vice President Dick Cheney was in office, Americans, not just Republicans and conservatives, regularly fell to one knee as he walked by. So it should be no surprise that the nation shuddered when Cheney said that President Barack Obama had made the nation less safe.

In the real world, outside of Cheney’s mind, the situation is much different. Part of the problem is that Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely shuffled into the background. Obama himself noted that one year ago, nobody thought that Iraq would not be at the top of the president’s agenda.

Still, the president must deal with Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, we must remember that foreign affairs are almost entirely within the president’s domain, with a few exceptions; Obama has far less latitude to act without congressional approval when governing domestically.

Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly the most disastrous legacies of the Bush administration, were probably the best case for a Democratic win last November. The war, turning in our favor or not, was costing too much in blood and treasure. Meanwhile, Afghanistan, which was a front in the war on terror – before and not because of our military intervention – descended further into chaos.

Today and even a year ago, Iraq was more stable and its democracy was maturing. However, Americans were nonplussed, fed up with multibillion-dollar ’emergency spending’ and feeling burned by the ‘non-reasons’ for invasion in the first place. Former President George W. Bush had openly hoped that his image would be rehabilitated like former President Harry Truman’s. However, Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur and showed the military’s golden boy who’s in charge; Bush spoon-fed the military-industrial complex.

Presently, Obama’s plans for Iraq and Afghanistan have been met with responses ranging from lukewarm support to outright derision. Obama’s pullout plan is too slow and insufficient they claim. What many of these hecklers forget, however, is that it takes time to move a military presence of about 130,000 personnel.

We must accept the irony that we created the situation that put our interests at risk. Our earlier actions allowed insurgents who hate us to gather and grow. Therefore, some troops will need to remain to protect interests such as our embassy. The president’s moves here are not a failure to follow through on a promise. It is just careful planning – the antithesis of what got us there in the first place.

Afghanistan is more difficult. It is hard to find anybody who does not think plans to increase troop levels are a bad idea. Still I am sure that this criticism exists. We must remember that the far-left thinks to this day that the war in Afghanistan was unjust, though the peaceniks are confusing ‘unjust’ with ‘poorly executed.’

While Obama is certainly more moderate than many of his supporters, he is still left-of-center. His election was the result of a leftwardshift in the mindset of the American public. Change, however much we believe in it, must be given time to achieve that which we need it to accomplish.

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