The Straightaway

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Archive for January 2009

The Cost of Victory

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While reading The Wall Street Journal Online Edition today, I was struck by the end of an opinion piece about Obama and his potential Iraq War policy:

Mr. Obama has inherited a victory in Iraq that he can’t afford to squander.

For many, calling the Iraq War a “victory” is ludicrous. After all, such an expensive project (in both lives and resources) that has produced only a mediocre suppression of violence can be nothing but a failure. Right?

Perhaps not. Cost aside, the war in Iraq has produced a resource-rich new democracy that has the potential to become the Unites States’ most valuable Middle Eastern Arab ally. If the upcoming regional elections go well, the continuing normalization of affairs in the country could allow Iraq to blossom into some more than it could have ever under Sadaam Hussein.

Understandably, the possibility of real success in Iraq is hard to swallow for the majority of Americans, who have come to hate the war and the man most associated to it – the outgoing President George W. Bush. They are angry about the sacrifices Americans have had to make to carry out Bush’s War, and they resent the damage the war has done to America’s international credibility. The American public seems to desire a hasty withdrawal out of Iraq.

This anger should not push the Obama administration to spoil what can still be done in Iraq. With a tempered withdrawal, U.S. forces can withdraw safely from Iraq within the next few years. A hasty withdrawal will do nothing but make certain that billions of dollars and thousands of American lives were spent in vain.

Anger cannot blind America this time. The ills of the past 6 years of the war should not be taken into account when considering the course of action that should be taken. The politicians of the Democratic majority will attempt to make good on their campaign promises and withdraw from Iraq with haste and without thought – they must be stopped. This important foreign policy decision should be made by level heads without considering their re-election bids in 2010 and 2012.

The strongest rebuke of the Slow Withdrawal argument is the high price of the war (estimated at $8-$12 billion per month, or roughly $120 billion per year). To refute that argument, one merely has to point a finger at the sloppily-executed $700 billion bailout passed before the end of President Bush’s term and the $300+ billion stimulus package that looks to pass through the Congress and Senate, both of which are still enthralled by the inspiring new President. Instead of giving the government $700 billion more to allocate poorly, why not just cut taxes to alleviate the burden on the average American and continue to spend for the next couple of years on Iraq? This alternative will save the United States money while boosting both its domestic and foreign profile.

Let the soldiers finish their job without an arbitrary deadline hanging over their head. The U.S. does not plan to (and does not want to) stay in Iraq for 100 years, as oft quoted; the Slow Withdrawal plan should be completed by the next presidential election (how convenient). The wrongs America has done to the Iraqi people will be multiplied if after all this struggle, Iraq remains a chaotic autocracy. America owes Iraq peace. American needs to finish its job first, then exit with grace and leave Iraq for its citizens to build into whatever it is destined to become.

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Written by acs2008

January 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm

ANALYSIS: President Obama’s Inaugural Address

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It is only natural that President Barack Obama would deliver an inaugural address so similar to that of the man he is often compared to – the late President John F. Kennedy. (Two of Kennedy’s former speechwriters helped Obama craft his address).

Firstly, and most importantly, the world in 2008, as it did in 1961, finds itself torn in a struggle between two dominant ideologies that threatens to tear apart the very fibers that bind humanity together. In 1961, the great battle being waged was the one between two economic systems – Capitalism and Communism. In 2008, the battle at hand is a struggle between two sets of values – Western vs. Islam.

In his inaugural, Kennedy reached out to the other side, offering “To those nations who would make themselves our adversary…not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.” Obama does roughly the same, with some pre-condition: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

Obama addresses the poor people of the world, as Kennedy did, saying that Americans “can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders…the world has changed, and we must change with it.” Perhaps the Obama Administration’s seeming embrace of diplomacy and foreign aid will help fulfill Kennedy’s promise: “to those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required.”

Both Presidents acknowledged the major part America would play in future generations. While Obama offers nothing in his speech as quotable and powerful as Kennedy’s classic line – “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country’ – Obama nonetheless makes it clear that a new sense of unity will be needed to tackle the world’s problems. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility,” said Obama, “a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Truthfully, Obama offers no phrase as succinct yet beautifully poetic as Kennedy’s “Trumpet Summon” phrase – a phrase that captures both the austere quality of the challenges facing humanity and the defiant hope of Kennedy and the American people. Yet, Obama offers something as powerful, if not as poetic, when he celebrates the diversity of America:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Even this, Obama’s salute to the diversity and promise of America – the qualities that made his presidency possible – recalls Kennedy, who broke a boundary himself as the first Catholic President.

Obama’s Inaugural Address might have lacked the poetic quotability of Kennedy’s, but it did not lack the substance. The ambitious vision of a better America and a peaceful world delivered by Obama is strikingly similar to the one Kennedy outlined in his own speech, 48 years prior.

We’ll have to wait and see if Obama can carry out his vision.

Written by acs2008

January 26, 2009 at 2:02 pm