Washington Babylon — September 22, 2009, 1:49 pm

Obama’s Likely Legacy: Failure in Afghanistan and Iraq

“Obama’s decision is complicated by a deepening domestic political divide and no guarantee of success whichever option he chooses,” the Washington Post wrote today in a story about Afghanistan. “One observer, characterizing the president’s dilemma at its most extreme, said: ‘He can send more troops and it will be a disaster and he will destroy the Democratic Party. Or he can send no more troops and it will be a disaster and the Republicans will say he lost the war’.”

That political scenario is accurate, but Obama is to blame for the fix he’s in. Yes, Afghanistan has blown up and it’s probably going to get a lot worse. But the reason he’s going to get the blame is that during the campaign he criticized the Bush administration’s approach in broad terms but never really proposed a way to seriously shift ground, because that would have been politically risky. That’s pretty much identical to the situation in Iraq and the war there.

The Bush administration set up for failure the next president, even if it had been John McCain, by keeping the lid on the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq through last fall’s election. But Obama played it safe during the campaign and now he’s in charge, with a Democratic congress. It’s not unfair that he gets the blame, or credit, for what happens next.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
Kandahar’s Mystery Executions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He told me he was made to stand on an ice block for thirty minutes at a time, and would then be forced to run barefoot across the gravel while an officer cable-whipped him.”
Photograph (detail) © Victor J. Blue
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Post
Art Beyond Politics·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia

Number of babies born in Alberta, Canada, last year who were given the name “Unique”:

2

Prehistoric hunters drove the giant ground sloth to extinction.

Comedian Joan Rivers died at age 81. “I finally found out how priests get holy water,” Rivers once said. “They boil the hell out of it.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today