As usual, The Rude Pundit is right. President Obama never promised to not escalate the war/occupation in Afghanistan. I knew this voting for him. And yes, Rude is also right that I made that little platform negotiation in my head (I'll trade war for health care, etc.). However, one point I think Rude is a bit wrong on is on how Obama's liberal plans are panning out. Aside from Gitmo, I think he's done a good job advocating liberally. It's not that he's just waffling on liberal issues because he doesn't believe strongly in them. He's doing it because he has absolutely no choice.
The fact is, despite an overwhelming majority of Democrats, we do not have a liberal -- let alone socialist (I LOL every time I hear a winger say that) congress. We have a center-right congress. For every Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and Brad Miller, we have nearly as many Blue Dogs, Republicans, and Conservadems. That's not even including the truly "moderate" Democrats (conservative Democrats are not moderate, by definition). That makes it very difficult for a progressive agenda. But if there is one thing the majority of congress agrees on, it's killing foreigners! Especially if they have brown skin or happen to be of the Islamic faith. Show me any federal politician (except a very small handful) and I'll show you a war hawk! So when Obama proposes his Afghan strategy, expect much rejoicing at our country's ability to wag its gigantic military penis at everybody else. Oh, sure, Republicans will whine about how they don't like it. But it won't be because they are anti-war. Hell to the no! It will be because it's not hawkish enough!
So, I don't see any reason to blame Obama about this American Empire Building Adventure or, by contrast, the watered down nature of his liberal promises. He's just delivering what he can within the best of his abilities and a stubborn congress. And that just happens to favor the righties more than us lefties. Although, I do think he should take a stronger stand on Gitmo. But that's just my opinion.
So what can you do to stem the hawkishness if you are anti-war, like myself? Well, one way is to invoke the other great fear that the conservative (Democrat and Republican) hawkers have: taxes. You probably thought I was going to say deficit and/or debt. Nope. Oh, sure, they say they are all against rising deficit and debt. But that's a complete load of campaign trail sales pitch BS. The Clenis (aka Uberliberal Circa Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Two – according to hawks) left us a freaking budget surplus! Fiscal Conservative Reagan? No. Fiscal Conservative Bush The Smarter? No. Fiscal Conservative W? No. Now, it's easy to just blame W for the squandering of the surplus. But remember, he wasn't the enabler. He needed congress to do it, and boy howdy, did they ever! And who was at the center of it all? The "tax and spend" liberals? No. The "fiscal conservative" (heavy irony quotes) war hawks were. So, anyway, yea, you can't fight them by complaining about how it adds to the deficit. They just do not care.
But the hawks can hear when you mention a tax! Have you seen the outrage of Rep. David Obey's proposition that our wonderful adventures in Afghanistan actually be paid for like healthcare? The hypocritical outrage is absolutely laughable.
So that's why I absolutely, 100%, support a special tax on wars. In fact, there should be constitutional amendment requiring that all foreign military adventures (whether or not they are officially declared "war" by congress) be paid for by a special progressively increasing income tax (structured similar to the standard federal income tax, but without any exemptions or limitations to those not in poverty). It's time the rest of us feel a teensy tiny pinch while military families and families in the areas we are attacking are literally torn apart. Wars should simply not be allowed to be funded by deficit dollars. Budget neutral! End of story. How on earth could a real fiscal conservative disagree with that?
But that will never happen because the majority of our current congressional representatives care more about getting reelected than following their stated principals, let alone doing good for simple the sake of doing good. Remember that when you are voting for your representative and senators. I am not a pessimist. We can change this. Obama's campaign (not Obama himself) proved this. All politics are local, etc.
So do something, already! Write your reps.
Post-Obama Speech Update (8:41PM): I don't want to deeply analyze what he said or get all pundity here, so I'll leave that to the professionals. I do, though, want to comment on Obama's timeline. He said in 18 months after the January "Afghanistan Surge" we will begin bringing troops home. Now, I don't want to imply that he said everybody will be home in June, 2011 -- that's not the case. But I was honestly shocked that in a mere three Friedman Units, he thinks we can get this under control and to some degree successful and secure enough to where even moderate war hawks can be happy with drawing down forces. I'm still anti-war, but I would be extremely pleasantly surprised if that ends up being the case. I'm a bit skeptical this timeline will not be extended, though. That said, I am much more confident than any time anybody from the previous administration, or Little Tommy Friedman himself, proclaimed all will be well in just six more months. Whether or not you agree with Obama's approach, at the very least, the adults are back in charge. President Chimpy certainly left a lot to be desired in that respect.