09 October 2009

Real World (War) and the Imaginary (Peace)

On the same day that we find out President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize would be the perfect day for him to approve General McChrystal's request for more troops in Afghanistan.

Perfect because, according to the AP, the choice of Mr. Obama for the Nobel seems to be for "initiatives that have yet to bear fruit" in the real world. Indeed, it is unclear just how Mr. Obama's international outreach program will impact world affairs. To some at home, it seems that Mr. Obama denigrates the U.S. and its most recent former president as a matter of course. This tactic might make for flowery speeches but it does little to advance U.S. interests; indeed, it damages them.

Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee, cited Mr. Obama's work toward nuclear disarmament as a reason for his selection, along with giving the American people "hope for a better future" - the "h" word had to come in at some point. But there seems to be little change on the nuclear front. North Korea and Iran are still on the same trajectory as they were under Mr. Bush.

It seems that the current president is inexerably linked to him immediate predicessor. One might argue that there would be no President Obama without President Bush. It seems clear that Mr. Obama would not have won his Nobel if it were not for his predecessor.

So on this day, it would be a fitting irony if Mr. Obama were to grant General McChrystal's request for more troops in full. But with as much hemming and hawing coming out of the White House regarding "the good war" in Afghanistan, I'm nto so sure that the Commander in Chief understands a paradox of military operations: using a great amount of force in the proper place at the proper time actually saves situations from further violence. This lesson should have been learned from Kosovo. It should have been learned from Iraq. I think perhaps Generals McChrystal and Patraeus understand this. If Mr. Obama were to actually earn his peace prize, he must understand how to wage war.

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