Thursday, September 2, 2010

Total Victory (But Not Recently)

65 years ago today, the Japanese formally surrendered to the United States, ending World War II. It would be the last time that a wartime foe would unconditionally surrender to us, although it would certainly not be our last war. For the last two days, some of my conservative friends have been behaving as though this total wartime victory happened just last week as they complain about Obama’s end of combat in Iraq, acting like they think it should have ended like just World War II. That fact is, a lot has happened between those two events.

We left the Korean peninsula in 1953 leaving the power and prestige of our enemies, the Chinese and the North Koreans, undiminished in any way. But Eisenhower was president then, and he was a Republican. We left Vietnam in 1975 after having been defeated ourselves, leaving Ho Chi Minh victorious and 58,000 of our young men dead for no good cause. But Gerry Ford was president then, and Ford was a Republican. We pulled out of Lebanon in 1983 having achieved nothing whatsoever but the loss of 241 Marines who died while sleeping in their own barracks. But Ronald Reagan was president then, and he was a Republican. We left Iraq (the first time) in 1991while George H.W. Bush (another Republican) was president, leaving Saddam Hussein and most of the top Iraqi leadership firmly in place to fight another day. That could hardly be called “unconditional” surrender on their part.

What makes Obama unique is not that he is ending a war under conditions that are worse than when the war started. All U.S. wars have ended that way for 65 years. What’s unique is that Obama is the first president to go through this frustration who happens to be a Democrat. And by the way, he’s also black. That’s why my conservative friends are upset.

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