War

Obama Prolongs Unwinnable Wars

The peace candidate transformed into a war president.

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Afghanistan
U.S. Army

Barack Obama came into office intending to correct his predecessor's biggest mistakes by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn't, because he made his own grievous mistake: choosing to prolong failure rather than admit it. 

The error is not original with Obama. George W. Bush did the same thing in those wars, persisting in them mainly because he didn't know what else to do. So did Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam. 

LBJ once confided his dilemma: "I can't get out. I can't finish it with what I have got. So what the hell can I do?" Nixon ran on a promise to end the war in Vietnam, but some 20,000 Americans died there under him—without changing the dismal outcome. 

Even Obama's fiercest critics would not have imagined he would complete two terms in the White House without extricating the United States from either war. The peace candidate has been a war president.

After withdrawing all forces from Iraq in 2011 and setting forth a plan to end the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Obama let himself be sucked back in. We now have some 5,500 troops in Iraq and nearly 10,000 in Afghanistan—far fewer than under Bush but far more than zero. 

The reason for staying was simple: to avert defeat, if only for the time being. After the U.S. vacated Iraq, the Islamic State emerged as a new threat to the Baghdad government and others in the region. As we headed for the exit in Afghanistan, the Taliban came roaring back. 

Hawks took these developments as vindication, saying: "See? We should have continued the wars at full strength." But the outcomes only confirmed the futility of our efforts. The goal of invading Afghanistan and Iraq was not to put them under permanent U.S. occupation. It was to topple the ruling governments and enable their people to flourish on their own. 

In that, we obviously came up pitifully short in both countries. They entered years of violent turmoil from which neither shows any sign of emerging. Yet Obama operates as though with more time and more American help, they can attain peace and fulfill our hopes. 

What possible reason does he have to believe that? Bush insisted that the 2007 surge in Iraq would not only produce military success but bring about "a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties and answers to its people." In the ensuing years, Iraq failed to realize his shimmering vision. No surprise there. The question is why anyone ever dreamed it could. 

Ditto for Afghanistan, where we have been mired for nearly 15 years. The point of Obama's surge, announced in 2009, was simple: to "create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans." Yet here we are 6 1/2 years later, still waiting for them to take ownership of their future. 

The chief reason Obama made these new military commitments was simple: He treated defeat as intolerable. But the American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not likely to prevent defeat—only to postpone it. 

Even if we could eliminate the militants, the conditions that spawned them would not abate. We crushed the insurgency once in Iraq, but the Baghdad regime didn't take advantage of the success to overcome the country's lethal divisions. The Kabul government has managed to preserve its hard-earned reputation for corruption and incompetence year after year. 

One thing the U.S. government has demonstrated in this century is that we know nothing about nation building. We can't solve the problems afflicting these countries, and we have aligned ourselves with governments that also lack that capability. Our presence does more to create radicalism than to kill it. 

Nor can we outlast homegrown enemies. It's their country, and their attachment will always exceed ours. They don't have to beat us on the battlefield. All they have to do is survive until we run out of patience, which will happen sooner or later. 

It may be much later, because presidents don't like to lose wars, even wars that are unwinnable. They would rather prolong them indefinitely, even though it means wasting American lives for nothing. 

Early in his presidency, Obama told his advisers, "I don't want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years." Yet he has. Thanks to him, the next president will also be making those visits.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc. 

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  1. “The peace candidate transformed into the war president.”

    He has? http://icasualties.org. In 2005 there were 945 u.s. military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2015 there were 28– roughly 3% the rate under GWB.

    1. Only 28 Americans killed? 28 is nothing, you’re right. I’m sure none of them were anyone’s child, or spouse, or parent. And I’m sure the 13-year-old and his little snot-nosed friends eating their breakfasts who Obama drone bombed simply because of who the kid’s dad had been before himself being droned several months before had it coming! Socialists always hold life cheap when it comes to the glory of the State — I sometimes forget that.

      1. He cherry picked a year.If you look at the numbers for his entire term it’s not what he say’s it is.Socialist are evil and liars at their core.

    2. I suppose that foreigners killed by Obama’s bombings, drone strikes, etc, do not count. Apparently it is not a “war” if we only kill other people.

      But if we only count our side’s casualties…11,153 Americans were killed in 1967 in Vietnam under Democrat LBJ. And that figure excludes wounded and missing. By this measure and your “logic,” a “mere” 945
      total casualties makes GWB a peace president by comparison.

      1. I suppose that foreigners killed by Obama’s bombings, drone strikes, etc, do not count.

        They were all terrorists. Yes, I’ve actually been told this.

        1. Well, *potential* terrorists, anyway.

        2. If they weren’t before their families and friends are now.

      2. Leftists love to accord themselves definitions and interpretations wide in scope and a long leash for excuses. For example, ‘the general welfare’ literally means ‘welfare’ to them pretty much and anything can be applied to it including Obamaphones and birth control pills if need be. War has an entirely different construct where their narratives are concerned. Hence, it becomes narrower when cherry picking data and what is defined as one.

        This is their M-O. Always was, always will be. Which is why the results of their actions based on faulty premises fail.

        1. Also “freedom” means freedom from needs (at someone else’s expense), and “slavery” includes feeling compelled to work at a job (under an at-will employment contract) to meet your family’s needs. And where “needs” of course includes things like iphones and liberal arts degrees. We all know the warping of the concept of a “right” beyond recognition.

          This kind of twisting of words is the reason it is useless to try to make laws and therefore government based on principles. Government will always be rule of man.

        2. “General” also means “particular”, too.

    3. Dumb ass ,more U.S. troops died in the Afgan war under Obama that Bush. They are two of the worst Presidents in the countries history.

      1. Hey, he didn’t drive the bus into the ditch!

        1. Hey, BOOOSH drove the economy onto a ditch so hard, that Obama’s only choice was to stuff a rag in its gas tank and set it on fire!

      2. “They are two of the worst Presidents in the countries history.”

        Oh, please. Not even close. I loath Obama, but he is a much smaller disaster than, say, Woodrow Wilson.

          1. Yeah, it’s hard to think of a president who did more to harm individual liberty and expand the state than FDR. I mean, LBJ’s Great Society and Nixon’s War on Drugs are both disasters, but they’re built within the framework established by FDR.

            1. I’d say Wilson was worse than FDR? Palmer Raids, Creel Committee, Espionage Act, Sedition Act, etc.

              Closest with ever come to a police state.

              1. How about that Lincoln, though?

                *Ducks and runs*

                1. Too soon?

    4. There were 564 US casualties in Afghanistan under GWB. Under Obama there have been 1,674 through 2014.

      You mendacious little shit.

      1. AmSoc doesn’t argue in good faith. It’s pointless to respond. Personally, I recommend the Reasonable plugin.

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  2. A great article from Chapman this time around. He highlights what I like least about Obama — his reputation for making peace while waging dirty wars in something like a dozen countries. His total carryover of all the Bush crap while all his fawning admirers either remain blissfully unaware or deny the very possibility that their idol is just more of the same they so vocally condemned. Just another village idiot – though minted in Chicago rather than Texas – advised by evil, liberty-hating minions, and who can barely string two sentences together without a TelePrompTer.

    1. Nobel. Effing. Peace. Prize….

      // mike-drop

  3. “Barack Obama came into office intending to correct his predecessor’s biggest mistakes…”

    No he didn’t.

    I refuse to read this article. After Chapman’s last abortion I will not read him anymore. His very first sentence is pure bullshit. Hey Reason, why not publish some of shreek’s bullshit? AmSoc? Have them write articles for you. Anyone who can be as mendacious a shill as Chapman isnt worth my time.

    There has been a lot of that around here lately.

    1. Dalmia and Suderman are on that list too, and even more shamefully, they’re in Reason’s employ.

      1. Look on the bright side: Richman is worse.

        Remember when Michael Young was writing about the Middle East here?

        1. I might have screwed that up. Chapman…Richman…I get them mixed up.

          1. There are too many -man’s. Bring back too chilly!

      2. It really has been pathetic.

        The one that really stung me was Bailey. I expected better out of him. That syrupy ‘widows and orphans’ article with the photo of the doe-eyed children advocating letting the syrian refugees in was just awful.

        1. No problem letting them in. Big problem dinging the taxpayers for the expenses.

        2. Well, if it bothers you that much there’s always National Review.

    2. This. Obama may have SAID he wanted to get out or Iraq and Afghanistan, but he clearly would have endorsed pedophilia and cannibalism if he thought it would get him elected. Once in office he did pretty much as he damn pleased, and let the Democrats and their Media shills scramble for excuses.

      1. He also “got out” of Iraq in the stupidest way possible.

        He didn’t just pull out our troops. He pulled out all of our intel people, too.

        This is why we didn’t see ISIS coming. And now we’re back in Iraq.

    3. One would think that after eight years of the Obama Presidency, we all would have learned that what Obama says and what Obama does bear no relationship to one another.

  4. Nice comparison with Nixon…. Since Nixon gets the lion’s share of the blame for a war that he inherited, expanded and then ended, what are we to do with Obama? He inherited two wars, one of which already had an expiration date attached. He has sort-of-but-not-really ended the war in Iraq, which isn’t going well at all. And he sort-of-kinda-expanded the same war into Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia…. sorta kinda but we aren’t admitting it back into Iraq….

    So… Booooosh!?!?

    1. I always like to ask progs why they dislike Nixon, since he ended the Vietnam War, opened relations with communist China, and created the EPA. I mean, these are all things that progs should consider good, right?

      1. Perhaps because southern strategy. The cynical little election strategy which magically transferred all the democratic party’s history of racism-related sins to the republican party. A very important thing to people who believe in the concept of inherited guilt.

        1. The southern strategy was really LBJ’s when you think about it. LBJ’s master move didn’t give them much of a choice.

      2. Because he coopted their ideas?

      3. Don’t forget price controls. Libs love price controls and Nixon did ’em.

    2. Nixon may have inherited the Vietnam War, but let’s not forget the war he started that still rages on today, and has crippled nations to our south: The War on Drugs.

    3. In 1975 US expenditure on the Food Stamp programme was five billion. A decade earlier it was 36 million.

  5. Sunk cost fallacy- how does that work?

  6. Even Obama’s fiercest critics would not have imagined he would complete two terms in the White House without extricating the United States from either war.

    Nearly 90% of US casualties in Afghanistan have been under Commander-in-Chief Obama.
    Thankfully, the Republican electorate has chosen a candidate who rejects our history of bipartisan foreign interventionism.

  7. So vote for Hillary Clinton, right Steve?!

    1. Hillary is Cheney in a nice pantsuit

  8. Obama told his advisers, “I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years.” Yet he has.

    Are you sure he has?

    1. There is a golf course named Walter Reed? Seriously, I am not a golf guy so I don’t know.

    2. Yeah, Obama couldn’t give a single fuck about wounded veterans.

  9. Don’t worry, Hillary is a bigger war monger than Barry. Maybe she will have US troops invade the entire middle east.

    1. And Team-Blue-bots will ignore it even harder.

      1. No, they will work hard to justify, rationalize, and excuse it.

        1. Libya had some concept behind it…P2P?

          Power to protect or something?

    2. I wouldn’t put it past Hillary to try and invade Middle Earth.

      1. We have to get those orcs before they get us. And who could really trust a Hobbit?

  10. ‘Peace candidate’ suggests he was up for an award.

    The problem is, he actually won the fucking useless piece of junk.

  11. “The goal of invading Afghanistan and Iraq was not to put them under permanent U.S. occupation. It was to topple the ruling governments and enable their people to flourish on their own.


    In that, we obviously came up pitifully short in both countries.”

    No, it was a roaring success actually. The problem is we apparently had no idea that a bunch of religious fanatics might institute a theocracy when freed from a dictator. Because after all, theocracy is icky and no one would choose that over democracy. Right? RIGHT?!?!?!

    I think once the government realized that what was replacing these dictators was actually worse, but more acceptable to them, they panicked and tried to ‘enlighten’ those damn savages. It’s hegemony, plain and simple. A failed one, but that’s not terribly surprising to anyone that’s been paying attention.

    1. They should have known. They had already turned Iran over to the theocrats.

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  13. “Even Obama’s fiercest critics would not have imagined he would complete two terms in the White House without extricating the United States from either war.”

    Oh right, nobody saw this coming.

    Chapman never fails to fail, does he?

  14. Afghanistan is an unwinnable war? So was Vietnam, until the Nationalists won it.

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  16. “So did Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam.”
    Yeah I was around when Nixon was running that war waiting for my lottery number to come up and drive across the bridge into Windsor. But to his credit, when the shit got real he cut and ran. LBJ took the coward’s way out. Nixon had a war a lot like Obama’s but ultimately didn’t have the stomach for Truman, Kennedy and Johnson’s war. Obama is a lot like LBJ. Kickin the can down the road.

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