July 04, 2011
Cop Lovers and Soldier Sniffers

Here, from Tom Engelhardt, is our text for this Fourth of July:

These days [President Obama] can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible. In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations. Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.

Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God. And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush's footsteps…

The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course. As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:

“We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination... and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach... we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”

I know, I know. You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over. But hang in there, because that’s just a start. For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective. They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.” They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.” (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?) And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from…”

Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.”

The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.

Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.” Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief. To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back... God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”

As ever, all of this was overlooked. Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens. In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre. These days, no one even blinks.

In the excerpt above, Engelhardt expands on a point made long ago by the late George Carlin — that America is a nation of “cop lovers and soldier sniffers.”

But Engelhardt goes on to argue, inarguably, that President Obama is leading us into a mess in Afghanistan from which we will never extricate ourselves without further dishonor and defeat. Thus he follows with precision the political strategy of Johnson and Nixon, both of whom also pursued reelection by keeping alive a murderous war that they knew to be pointless and unwinnable.

Please read not just the passages I’ve posted, but Engelhardt’s whole essay.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at July 04, 2011 10:48 AM
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The comparison to Nixon and Johnson is insulting. Both of them are on record as saying the Vietnam war couldn't be won. Both of them were facing real re-election problems that they and everybody else recognized. President Obama, on the other hand, is facing weak GOP opposition in 2012 and has said repeatedly in public and presumably in private that the war in Afghanistan is "winnable" if we only stay the course. By winning he has said, and I have no doubt he means, that we can bring enough self-government to Afghanistan that Al Qaeda will not threaten us from there. Plus he has the back of the men who should know best, our military, in the strategy of staying the course with a combination of nation-building and military training. At least give the guy a chance!

Posted by: Lou Garou on July 4, 2011 3:45 PM

The idea that we can "win" anything by staying in Afghanistan is ludicrous and the idea that, "Plus he has the back of the men who should know best, our military..." is doubly so. The military should be having the back of the Commander-in-chief and should be led by the Commander-in-chief, not the other way around. The Commander-in chief makes the strategy and military industrial complex should be following that lead. The military Industrial Complex should not be running the country, constitutionally speaking that just isn't their role as I read it.

Posted by: knowdoubt on July 5, 2011 2:55 PM

It looks to me like Obama is tying his reelection hopes on the votes from Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. He probably hopes that the people who truly got him where he is today would just stay home and FORGET ABOUT IT. Not on your life, Mr. President! I am very much looking forward to voting third party and against the establishment in 2012. Let freedom fucking ring!

Posted by: Pat on July 6, 2011 5:22 AM
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