You Say Contradiction, I Say Wisdom

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28 September 2009

A little detour into global affairs today…

I’ve got Afghanistan on the brain, ever since David Brooks wrote in his NY Times Op-Ed piece last week that “historical evidence suggests that…middling strategies just create a situation in which you have enough forces to assume responsibility for a conflict, but not enough to prevail.”  In other words, it’s “all in or all out” — which, in my mind, puts genuine leadership at odds with voter impatience.  If it happens that troop increase and long-term commitment to the Af-Pak War is what’s required, then the Obama presidency, I fear, is at high risk.  It’s aggravating — that the “American people” (whoever that may be) want to be safe from terrorism, but will vote out any political leader who asks for patience and sacrifice to that end.

If it happens that the best course is to pull out, then cries of “broken campaign promises” will be the President’s other potential downfall.

I appreciated Frank Rich‘s piece in the NY Times this past Sunday, in which he exhorted the President to do what he needs to do, regardless of what he said 18 months ago on the campaign trail.

Obama finds himself at that same lonely decision point now. Though he came to the presidency declaring Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” circumstances have since changed…. [   ] it’s up to the president to decide what he thinks is right for the country’s security, the politics be damned. That he has temporarily pressed the pause button to think it through while others, including some of his own generals, try to lock him in is not a sign of indecisiveness but of confidence and strength.

I’m not sure why mind-changing is considered a sign of weakness or dishonesty in politics.  As if mindless consistency, or any sort of consistency, were an ultimate sign of character. The world changes so quickly these days, faster than Internet media can even keep up.  Why wouldn’t contradiction–saying one thing today, another thing tomorrow–be understood as the way we live now?  It seems to me that the only constant we have anymore is change.

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