Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sorry! Really and truly.

I spent my junior year in England and unconsciously adopted some of the British peculiarities such as referring to the elevator as a lift, and mumbling ‘right’ and ‘sorry’ as part of virtually every sentence.  As a kid I enjoyed playing the board game Sorry!, racing game pieces around the board faster than any other.  As an adult and an executive I recognize the importance and value of authentic acknowledgment of one’s errors.  Maybe I should go for elective office!

President Obama earned a reputation early on in his Presidency as the Apologist President.  The Heritage Foundation went so far as to put together a list of the top 10 apologies that ‘humiliated’ America.  The Washington Post (some eighteen months later) put the claims through it’s ‘FactChecker’ and determined that the “apology tour” Republicans claimed defined his foreign policy never actually occurred.  

Recent events won’t appease those who think the President is overly apologetic.  The New York Times reported that a U.S. service member was seen firing on several houses, killing 16 Afghan civilians.  Two days later, President Obama apologized saying:  “The United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered. We’re heartbroken over the loss of innocent life. The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous and it’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military. And for that reason, I’ve directed the Pentagon to make sure that we spare no effort in conducting a full investigation.”

Diplomatically it is proper apologize when innocent people are killed.  Unfortunately, based on the President’s own statement, the facts do not yet support the conclusion that something wrong was done.  An investigation hasn’t been conducted so the apology seems to be designed to stymie International outrage.

The real outrage, though, is the war itself.  The United States is in the eleventh year of the military action.  2,916 military people have died in Afghanistan alone – tens of thousands more if you count civilians.  Nearly a trillion dollars has been spent with no end in sight.   Afghans did not do anything to the U.S.  The justification at the time was retaliation for 9/11.  The hijackers of the planes that day were Saudi, a country that has suffered no consequence for its participation and where America continues to buy plenty of oil.  Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind, was found in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.  Why are American (and some minor coalition) troops still there?  According to the Obama (and Bush) Doctrine:  To save the Afghan people from the evils of the Taliban.  Self-determination is apparently no longer a valued trait.  

Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” is a brilliant behind-the-scenes look at how a young President made the strategic and military decisions in Afghanistan.  The book has been out for a couple of years, but it is chilling to see the threats that forced Obama to take the policy over and literally hand write the directives.  I do not agree with the President on virtually any of his policies.  I must acknowledge his tenacity and moral resolve in maintaining his approach to Afghanistan…given the political and military resistance he underwent that the book chronicles.

The President flexed his Commander-in-Chief muscles again last week saying that he is prepared to go to war with Iran.  He dialed back the rhetoric the next day, but, still the message he sent was loud and clear – just like George W. Bush invading two countries last decade.  War in Iran?  Why?  The reason will be very compelling in the moment, just like it was under President Bush.

Two time Libertarian Presidential Candidate Harry Browne (RIP) predicted that the Middle East wars would be disasters.  He posted his concerns and claims online.  He was pilloried, even by many stalwart supporters.  The website Truth About War  outlining all of the concerns remains up, frozen in time, as a bold reminder of what could have been prevented.  Harry was right and his critics owe him a debt of gratitude for speaking the truth.

Where’s the apology for entering into military conflict under false pretences?  Ooops…sorry…must have regressed to that childhood board game! 

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