Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama's inherited wars

It doesn't matter what Bush tries to say -- he can even appear graceful ducking a shoe and it doesn't help:

Americans are more upbeat about U.S. prospects in Iraq than at any time in the past five years, but nearly two-thirds continue to believe the war is not worth fighting and 70 percent say President-elect Barack Obama should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Meanwhile, most Americans support the war in Afghanistan and a slim majority said the conflict there is essential to battling global terrorism, the poll found. Yet, a majority of Americans also believe that the U.S. military action there has been unsuccessful.

Obama's going to have to be a miracle worker to keep U.S. perceptions of Afghanistan from slipping into the same dread category where Iraq lives -- a miserable failure to be flushed quickly down the memory hole. I see no reason to believe he can do that. Afghans living under air strikes and under U.S.-supported warlords are not into helping him

Meanwhile, denunciation of the Bush legacy gets more blunt. Matt Yglesias hammers home the unwelcome truth:

The harsh reality is that this [Iraq] was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it's seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world -- including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it's impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it's clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. [I'm not so sure that will work.] But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it's vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they're seen and understood by people who aren't stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.

I'm also not so sure about that "playing a constructive role" stuff. But we'll be playing some role, so we might as well strive for constructive.

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