When I was in college, there was this President who was trying to kill me. Actually, several Presidents, but mostly one. He was a Democrat, and he did lots of good and important things for many people, for the country as a whole: He passed a health care program which took care of older people; he steered a Civil Rights bill right past all the opposition from Southerners in the Congress, which he could do because he was a Southerner himself. He tried to end poverty.
But it was sort of like living next to this really nice man who did all sorts of charitable things, who always brought over soup when you were sick, but then you realize, yes, but, he was an axe murderer. He had heads in his basement freezer.
He thought we ought to be killing Vietnamese because somehow, if we didn't, the Communists would, and if that happened, he would be the first American President to lose a war and he could not live with that.
I know, I know: it doesn't make much sense now, but it made sense to half the country back then.
Then again, you can convince half of this country Elvis Presley is alive and living on Pluto and Barack Obama was born on an airplane somewhere between Kenya and Indonesia. (Which may suggest there is something seriously wrong with our educational system; or maybe it's the gene pool. I don't know. But, really, have you ever watched Doctor Phil? Or Judge Judy? Or even, really, Oprah. But I digress.)
So now we have Afghanistan, which at first seemed to make some sense. We were told the plot to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center was hatched there and we were told more terrorists were in training with the same folks who brought you 911, right there, somewhere in Afghanistan. Of course, it turned out Islamic fundamentalists in that case were mostly Saudi, lived in an apartment in Germany and then in hotels in Florida and we did not declare war on Saudi Arabia, or send in special forces to take out Germany or invade Florida.
We just invade Afghanistan and Iraq, really, when you get right down to it, because it felt good at the time.
Oh, there were the usual marketing lines: Better to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York. That was my favorite.
And it did stick in my craw that Osama Bin Laden, if he didn't actually have anything to do with 911, he tried to take credit for it and he was a major cheerleader, after the fact. He was unappetizing and the wicked witch is dead, so I'm happy.
Then again, Palestinians were cheering in the streets and we didn't send in Seal Team Six to take out all the Palestinians.
But up until President Obama got Osama, he was smart enough to say that wasn't his primary goal in Afghanistan, because it wasn't clear we were ever going to find that particular needle in the haystack.
But what he did say made about as little sense as what they used to say in Viet Nam. We were in Afghanistan to deny Al Qaeda training bases from which to launch the next attack. We were after "sanctuaries." Those apartments in Germany were training grounds and sanctuaries. The entire country of Somalia is a sanctuary for every lunatic who wants to call himself a Muslim. There are all those "Stan" countries and large swaths of Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma (or whatever they call themselves now), and probably also Arizona, South Carolina, Texas and Mississippi, in about that order, where there are very high levels of deranged people. And don't get me started on all those white supremacists living off the grid in Idaho and North Dakota. Yowza.
So now we once again have American boys (and now girls) tramping around a country in space suits, speaking English and trying to tell the locals how to live life. These kids have huge targets painted on their backs and their trucks and the locals have been having great sport blowing the kids up with roadside Improvised Explosive Devices.
But then again, these kids are all volunteers.
They are volunteers who are mostly in the "Join the Army if you fail," category, i.e., it was the best job they had any hope of getting. Yes, some were motivated by waving flags and something they call patriotism. (Not what Henry David Thoreau would call patriotism.) And one of them even gave up millions playing football in the NFL so he could go get shot by his own fellow Americans in Afghanistan, but he was the exception that proved the rule.
And we have American 19 year olds trying to vanquish the poppy fields, and trying to explain in English to the locals why this is a good thing. Good luck with that.
And we've got an American President who must not remember LBJ the way I do.
Our President really ought to read Empire of the Summer Moon, which is about how the US government tried to search out the Comanches who were terrorists of the Great Plains and never could really find them. So eventually, General Sheridan told General Sherman what they really had to do was kill all the buffalo, because once you killed all the buffalo, the Comanches were toast. These two generals had such good success with scorched earth in the Civil War, they were very high on the tactic. And it worked. But of course, it's hard doing scorched earth in the mountains of Afghanistan, when the locals know you are going to leave in the next few years. The Comanches knew we were going to stay, to move in and build strip malls. They eventually gave up and opened casinos.
I'll still vote for him, because look at what the Republicans are like, every last one of them.
The Democrat in the White House might be a closet axe murderer for all I know, but he is not, even if he is, nearly as scary as any of those Republicans.
If twelve angels blowing horns appeared in the skies over Washington tomorrow and the clouds parted and God said, "Raise taxes on millionaires," the Republicans would say He was misquoted.