Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Last month I was reading two of Graham Greene's fantastically prescient novels, The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana. His perception of where events were headed in Saigon (early 1950s) and Havana (later 1950s) led me to imagining how much better off the U.S. might have been if Greene had been paid more attention by our policymakers.  (It probably didn't make him any more attractive to them that he was defiantly anti-American, mostly, one feels, after reading these novels, because he felt we were doing a bad job replacing the Brits as the world's movers and shakers--or even now, as the surviving superpower.)

If you read these two novels, you will see how he anticipates the gradual replacement of the French by the U.S. as the equivalent of the colonial power in Viet Nam, and the likelihood that the corrupt Batista regime in Cuba would be overthrown by revolutionaries of some sort, who were predictably less than thrilled with the U.S.'s then-common support of dictators in Latin America like Batista.

So after three presidents--Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson--got deeper into Viet Nam--yes, the first two didn't go that far but they definitely set the stage and then some, it took many years to defuse the domino theory as the key element in American foreign policy in Asia. Then we had the totally irresponsible invasion of Iraq premised on a patchwork of lies and a needless invasion of Afghanistan--one had thought that the result of the 9/11 act of terror should have been a focused search for Bin Laden, not a wholesale invasion of two countries.

President Obama seemed incapable of appreciating that yes, we had invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban, only to let them return as we shifted to an even less relevant theatre: Iraq, but that we still didn't need to be in Afghanistan since no one from the outside has ever been able to end up victorious in that unwholesome atmosphere. 

He has shown some success--not that he gets much credit from an ignorant media.  Under his leadership, the objective of getting Bin Laden was accomplished and Obama managed to accomplish some limited goals in Libya without committing troops on the ground and by rallying allies. Perfect--no, and his staff let him down by ignoring the shaky situation in Libya so as to allow terrorists to storm the Benghazi consulate and then to put out some b.s. about the event rather than play it straight.  Had it not been for that mishap, Libya might stand as a success--sure, a qualified one, but a success all the same for intervening without getting into a prolonged conflict.

So now Obama is rightfully reluctant to commit to major involvement in Syria. Yes, he should have exercised the limited use-of-force option some time ago but it still can be a good approach. And he should be given credit for involving Congress--both for satisfying those (some friends of mine among them) who believe that Congressional action is mandatory, and for assuring that the people's representatives charged with making the decision to go to war are on board.

No comments:

Post a Comment