The more Republicans protested with faux outrage the "politicization" of the killing of Osama bin Laden the more Americans were reminded of it, and the more the President's stock rose. It was almost palpable. Oingo-boingo Mitts-flops reversed himself so often it was hard keeping up with the latest pirouette. Some years ago in response to then-Senator Obama's promise to hunt down and kill bin Laden given actionable intelligence, no matter where he may be, Romney harrumphed that it wasn't worth "moving heaven and earth" to find one individual, cautioning that we musn't offend Pakistan by "bombing our ally" without their permission. "Bomb-bomb-bomb bombbomb McCain" must still wake up in a cold sweat over this one.
Then, during the insanity reality show known as the GOP presidential debates, Romney joined the chorus for war with Iran (and the Soviet Union, too, to protect Czechoslovakia, I guess) over their nuclear program — no diplomacy there; straight to war — but couldn't decide whether he was for troop withdrawals and an end to our wars in the region with a Bushwhack punt about listening "to our commanders on the ground." Wrong answer. When you're the Commander-in-Chief, they listen to you. He also refused to commit to any troop withdrawal timetable.
What now Mittens? With the President's speech explaining to Americans that a "responsible" drawdown of our troops and ending the war in Afghanistan requires that we maintain a military presence there until 2024, is Mittens going to try to outflank the President on the right: "I'll take your 12 and raise you 28 for an even half-century presence in theater"? Good luck selling that to the American people. Or will he horrify the neocons by flippin' the dove and announcing we should be out sooner? Team Obama will love pointing out Romney's naïve "cut-and-run" military posture. Can you say "check" ... mate? Or try intoning "I'm so disappointed" like a wild and crazy guy ... ha-ha-ha. Sob.
More than two decades before President Obama's historic post-Cold War reset of American foreign policy, the neocon Republican fantasy that American military virility should remake the world in our own image, whatever that meant, had won the day. And also ensuing decades, with tragic consequences. The neocon Statement of Principles eerily parallels the traditional fascist ideal of a superior race with a mythologized past. Its neocon American version resurrects the 19th century concept of American expansionism known as "Manifest Destiny" (2.0) in which a virtuous America is entitled to realize its destiny as a world power by force of arms if necessary: Such a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today," the "Statement of Principles" concludes, yet "is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."
By contrast, Democratic foreign policy and our military posture was informed by the small 'd' ideal of American democracy. The same ideal which Romney sneeringly and ignorantly berates as President Obama "apologizing" to the world for America. A lie, of course, along with the myth of Democratic "weakness" on foreign policy. The U.S. Democratic foreign policy was reaffirmed and championed by President Obama on the anniversary of bin Laden's killing, with exceptional skill, real "moral clarity" and a steely focus on our national security interests: First, (a) identify and prioritize the goal —to hunt down bin Laden and exterminate Al Qaeda — then (b) set out systematically to accomplish it. It is the rational counterweight to the inherently racist Manifest Destiny (2.0) as the ideological foundation for heady neocon dreams of empire.
The Republican experience is completely different. No matter the cost, their warmongering is an end in itself rather than a somber but determined concession to the failure of diplomacy as applied in self-defense, or in concert with our allies when all other peaceful means of averting a crisis have been exhausted. To the chicken hawk neocons, most of whom have never tasted battle, their aim is to create empire by force of arms and a 21st century "Pax Americana" through Orwell's perpetual wars feeding the military-industrial complex beast that President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his farewell speech.
Lest we too quickly dismiss as preposterous the notion of a fascist strain in American politics and foreign policy, consider this: The Nazi Germany version of Manifest Destiny was known as Lebensraum, literally "living space." It was the ideological justification for Nazi Germany's eastward expansionism, seizing lands and raw materials from "inferior" Polish, Russian, and other Slavic populations, while committing unspeakable atrocities. In Manifest Destiny, American expansionism was westward, the populations to be subjugated, enslaved, and largely exterminated, were the "inferior" Native Americans herded into concentration camps called reservations.
Relying on an updated version of Manifest Destiny as their ideological foundation, neocons view the Cold War "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity" as actually representing a romantic, conservative Reagan ideal, a return to which neocons fervently crave, but which in reality has never existed. Their misguided, bellicose neo-imperialism is all the more dangerous for its ideological underpinnings and ultimately doomed to self-destruction through the inexorable, unprecedented sapping of American power, prestige, and influence abroad.
The (George W.) "Bush Doctrine" of "preemptive war" was drawn from the neocon Statement of Principles on the "need to increase defense spending significantly ... to carry out our global responsibilities today, modernize our armed forces for the future," and "accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." Bush plucked, wholesale, a neocon pre-9/11 letter to President Clinton calling for the peemptive removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In his 2010 memoir, Bush justified his neocon "doctrine" as "taking the fight to the enemy overseas before they can attack us again here at home" and "confronting threats before they fully materialize."
Tragically, in his zeal to apply the bellicose neocon imperialist policies, Bush attacked the wrong country in Iraq, took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and allowed Osama bin Laden to escape the mountains of Tora Bora into Pakistan. Saddam was a bad actor but he had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nor did he harbor designs on attacking the U.S., much less retain the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction, with highly competent UN inspectors breathing down his neck. Choosing war over sanctions to take out one lousy dictator among dozens around the world was not worth the sacrifice in blood, treasure, and heartache to the United States.
Significantly, American military interventions during the Carter and Clinton presidencies were narrowly focused with a humanitarian component; the opposite of the neocon ideological Republican wars. President Carter, subject of the Romney cheap shot — "even Jimmy Carter would have given that order" to take out Osama bin Laden — actually made that fateful and gutsy call of a failed mission to rescue the American embassy hostages held in Iran.
Unlike the Republican neocon bloodlust for deposing anti-American leaders — Manuel Noriega (Panama), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), democratically elected president Salvador Allende (Chile), failed coup attempts in Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega) and Venezuela (Hugo Chavez) — President Carter took the much more effective approach, at least in Latin America, of declaring that human rights would henceforth be a cornerstone of American foreign policy. It restrained Latin military dictators dependent on U.S. aid from their most abusive practices, and paved the way for democracy to take root and flourish in Latin America.
President Clinton's military interventions, in Somalia (unsuccessful), in Haiti (restoring deposed President Aristide to power), and the U.S.-led NATO military action in Bosnia to stop ethnic cleansing and the killing of civilians, without a single American killed in action, were each based on humanitarian grounds. Stopping the genocidal Bosnian war and bringing the criminals to justice in the International Tribunal in the Hague, reinforced that other doctrine of a "just war" consistent with our highest moral values as a civilized democracy.
Ironically, the raison d'etre for the doctrinal neocon notion of "perpetual war" — Orwell's metaphor for the Cold War — was their fantastical idealization of Ronald Reagan, credited with "winning the Cold War" as the accelerated rotting from within collapse of the Soviet Union ended on his watch as well as Pope John Paul II's. Still, Reagan deserves great credit for being a better peacetime diplomat with our biggest foes than a military commander. His military adventurism in Lebanon and Libya were small disasters, and the administration's covert CIA activities in Central America leading up to the Iran-Contra scandal nearly destroyed Reagan's presidency. It was, arguably, just as profound a constitutional crisis as Watergate — which engulfed and brought down an earlier Republican president, Nixon — and which would have directly implicated President Reagan had his subordinates not fallen on their swords.
David Frum, the earnest and rational conservative commentator, made a feeble attempt to defend knee-jerk, reactive Republican criticism. A thankless task given Romney's terminal lack of gravitas exemplified by the amazingly stupid remark that any American would have made the same call President Obama did, taking out bin Laden. Excuse me?! All I could think of were the millions of Romney's crazed constituents who, given the chance, wouldn't hesitate for a moment to exercise the nuclear option — a fearsome push-button toy to be directed at those hated "foreigners." Mitt Romney is no longer simply an amusing, out-of-touch mega-rich technocrat. He is dangerously out of touch, not just with voters, but as an automaton to implement the Ryan budget with "five working digits" to sign Grover Norquist's government-destroying bills. Most of all, Romney is an empty suit not to be trusted on any level with the presidency.
Frum made the highly questionable point that nothing has changed in Afghanistan since 2008 when President Obama took office. Nice try, David, but in a country where success is measured by two steps forward, one step back, such claims sidestep the President's main objective, which is to wind down the war responsibly and give the Afghan people a chance; the necessary breathing room for their self-government and democracy to begin taking root. The President inherited this mess from the Republicans and is determined not to abandon it to the fate Nixon's successor President Ford accepted, of helicopters evacuating people from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, 1975.
The Commander-in-Chief has earned the right and privilege to celebrate the killing of Osama bin Laden as a signal and historic achievement of his administration. President Obama has shown us he's got the moves to do his endzone dance. The return to rational, focused, tough-as-nails but non-belligerent Democratic Party foreign policy is cause for all Americans to celebrate. Of all the chatter surrounding President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan, Chris Matthews said it best when he was reminded of Winston Churchill in this memorable line from the President's speech:
This is from Winston Churchill's speech at the Mansion House, London, November 10, 1942:"As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation."
Winston Churchill and FDR are the 20th century's gold standards for leadership in times of war. Yesterday, the American people glimpsed the 21st century standard in President Obama, established almost one year ago outside public view in the White House Situation Room.I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil and sweat. Now, however, we have a new experience. We have victory — a remarkable and definite victory. The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers and warmed and cheered all our hearts.