Charlie Wilson’s war and George W. Bush’s war is now Barack Obama’s war

The president is so bright and articulate that one — even a cynical one — must pay attention to his thinking. But partnering with Afghanistan and Pakistan? That is the key to making his plan work. With such partners, who believes that is a wise investment? And where will we find the funding for this military escalation, a problem the president acknowledged but never resolved?

The president also alluded to our problems at home, but he failed to suggest how we can do all the things we need done. Presidents have to make choices, and displease some people in making them. Last night he tried to please friends and critics, and ended up pleasing neither. Forty billion dollars a year for three years would create 1 million American jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute think tank. War or jobs? Pick one! It’s all in, or out. We need to be out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And working on our problems in America.

Instead of focusing on major problems at home, as Michael Moore plaintively wrote in an open letter to him, the president has become “the new war president,” sending young Americans to the notorious Graveyard of Empires and assuming the blunders of the Bush foreign “policy.”

Reportedly, the president required his Cabinet members to read a book about our country’s mistakes in Vietnam before convening to consider the Afghan war. Did they read it?! It was the right reading assignment, but didn’t any of them comprehend the lessons of that unwon war that resulted in the deaths of 57,000 Americans? He said last night there are differences, and of course there are. But the relevant lessons to be learned were ignored.

The president needs a “no” man, or woman, in his inner circle, one he relies on, to tell him, “No, don’t do that” when the institutional forces around him are saying the opposite. “Be your mother’s son,” Moore entreated; do as Martin Luther King would advise. Stand up, I would add, like Ali did to the Vietnam draft. Who is the president listening to; what is he thinking? Would he send his daughters there, as he is other people’s?

Thinking, as he does, that we can have conditional wars is as unrealistic as believing he can create bipartisanship in Congress. There are no realistic timetables in wars. We never know what we’ll encounter going into any war, a wise general pointed out. The president should heed Field Marshal Montgomery’s comment during Word War II: “Forget making war plans; all your plans go astray as soon as the first shot is fired.”

Can it be that President Obama’s key contribution to American politics was getting elected? By doing so, he brought into the mainstream young and minority voters for the first time, reflected the country’s intelligence and openness to the world and changed the cultural zeitgeist. But last night, a cold reality chilled even the president’s ardent supporters who fear another major military investment reduces his opportunity to bring about the real changes he promised.

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