Misleading headline. I’ve no idea why the American military presence in Afghanistan is, in fact, three times as large as it was before Barack Obama took office. Does Obama know? If he does, he’s keeping it to himself. He’s saying things like this, from the speech he gave during his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base:
…Yet here, in the predawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon…
He makes Afghanistan sound like “mission accomplished,” then allows that the military will be there through 2014, and maybe much longer, at who knows what cost. He doesn’t say why. How does such a gifted, well-educated man bring himself to use such banal and deceitful language?
I just finished reading the Vanity Fair piece about Obama in the 1980s, living in New York City and attending Columbia, doing a lot of reading and thinking. This is from a letter to a girlfriend in which he expresses admiration for poet T.S. Eliot’s world view:
…Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini…)
I know, don’t make too much of the self-infatuated ramblings of a bright guy in his early 20s, but those lines arguably shed light on why Obama turned out to be a major disappointment to progressives who expected him to put a lid on exorbitant “defense” spending, curtail growing economic inequality, crack down on banksters, and so on.
Obama is attractive and socially adroit but he’s essentially a private man who learned early on to rein in his passions and hide his conservative beliefs regarding how to change the world for the good. He learned to veil his beliefs in abstract language that would appeal to progressive voters on an emotional level.
The irony is that, in pursuing power, he may have fooled himself as much as he fooled the rest of us. What is the good of his cautious, ostensibly middle-of-the road approach to governance? How different are his speeches — his beliefs — about the conduct of foreign wars from those of the much less gifted George W. Bush?