Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post Iowa and New Hampshire primaries

Republican Politics, American Style
January 17th 2008 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

First Obama upsets Clinton in Iowa and then Clinton ekes out a narrow win in New Hampshire. Since the Democrats still appear to be split why does this Republican believe Barack Obama possesses the global leadership skills and vision that America and the rest of the world will need if we hope to resolve many of the problems we are currently facing or will soon be confronting? Well, let’s review some of the reasons I have mentioned in previous columns over the past year.
Back in 2002 America was still grieving the victims of al Qaeda’s 9/11 suicide attacks on the two most visible symbols of America’s economic and military supremacy around the globe; the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. As a nation America was struggling to adjust to being a victim of pseudo-religious political violence on a massive scale. But once Americans had grieved the loss of life and gotten over their shock, the vast majority of Americans also became very angry. Americans wanted to hit back at the terrorists who had so viciously assaulted us and expected the US government to do so.
So the US sought and received a large measure of international support for the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan and its efforts to topple a Taliban regime which was providing a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The US government’s initial military response involving the use of a small number of Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan recognized that you can’t attack a network of terrorists like al Qaeda with a field army. Instead, the US military used 11 Special Forces A-teams totalling fewer than 200 troops to topple the Taliban and put al Qaeda on the run.
But this judicious use of a small number of US Special Forces troops didn’t do much to garner the kind of media publicity in America that the Bush administration was looking for. So Bush, Cheney and their neo-conservative allies decided to go after a bigger and much less elusive target, Saddam Hussein. Thus the decision to turn what was a Special Forces counter-terrorism guerrilla operation (which cannot possibly generate much media publicity) into a media heavy conventional war served a purpose but it was not one related to effective counter-terrorism strategies Rather it was an effective political strategy which helped Bush win re-election, but at a huge cost in terms of money, lives and military power.
The Bush administration began by seeking international support for the invasion of Iraq just as they had done in Afghanistan. President Bush and his minions basically manufactured evidence to justify a decision that had nothing whatsoever to do with fighting terrorism. When most other countries in the world questioned the rather dubious evidence and reasoning of Bush and his ideologues, Bush then decided to convince Congress and the American people to allow the US to act unilaterally if he felt it was necessary.
Of the eight major Presidential candidates including Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and John McCain as well as Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Bill Richardson, Barack Obama was the only one to take the politically unpopular stand of publicly and vocally opposing the US invasion of Iraq. Some of Barack Obama’s political advisors believed that he should remain silent because speaking out against a looming invasion that was very popular (because most American’s believed Bush’s fabricated evidence) would hurt his chances of being elected to the US Senate in the upcoming 2004 elections.
But Obama ignored this advice and in 2002 he spoke at an anti-war rally in Chicago and explained why he was against the war saying; “I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda (in Afghanistan), through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and with a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.” I believe Obama’s decision to speak out against a politically popular Iraq war was a clear demonstration of his strongly held principles, keen insight and good judgement.
None of the other Presidential candidates with the exception of John McCain have so publicly and repeatedly demonstrated both a commitment to principles and a willingness to tell Americans what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. More than anything else that (to me) is the mark of a true leader. America and the world sorely need a true leader to propose and implement complex solutions for complex problems like political terrorism and global climate change.
Obama truly believes in the American proposition: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under a constitutional democratic government with limited powers. Obama has been quoted as saying “I believe in American exceptionalism, (but not one based on our) military prowess or our economic dominance. Our exceptionalism must be based on our Constitution, our principles, our values and our ideals. We are at our best when we are speaking in a voice that captures the aspirations of people across the globe. We can’t entirely remake the world. What we can do is lead by example.” These are powerful and eloquent words which reflect Obama’s belief in America’s unique capacity to inspire people both in America and around the world.
Someone asked me recently who I believed had been America’s most inspirational Presidential leaders in response to my statement Obama was a once in a generation inspirational leader. I quickly cited Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy as examples, when she stopped me and asked “didn’t they all die in office?” “Yes” I said “and two of them were assassinated.” Hmmm….. What a scary thought. Is that because I had never really thought of it that way before? Regardless, next week I will continue explaining why I think Obama is that once in a generation leader that both America and the world so desperately need.

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