On War #274: Why Obama Is Wrong

William S. Lind
September 16, 2008

A few weeks ago I wrote a column explaining why Senator John McCain is wrong on Iraq. In contrast, Senator Barack Obama is largely right on Iraq. Whether he would follow through on his plan for withdrawing U.S. troops is another question. The Democratic foreign policy establishment is no less Wilsonian than its Republican counterpart, and once it has used anti-war voters to gain power it will want to show them the door as soon as it dares.

But if Obama is right on Iraq, he is wrong on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. His prescriptions for each are so close to the policies of the Bush administration that if McCain is McBush, Obama appears to be O’Bush. It seems many voters’ desire to climb up out of the Bush league altogether is doomed to frustration.

On Afghanistan, Obama wants to send in more troops and win the war. But more troops doing what U.S. troops now do-fighting the Pashtun and calling in airstrikes on anything that moves-guarantee we will lose the war. As was the case in Iraq, the first necessary step is to change what our troops are doing. From what I have seen, Obama has said nothing on that score, probably because his position on Afghanistan is mere posturing intended to show he will be “tough on terrorism.”

Obama’s position on Pakistan is even more dangerous. In August of 2007, Obama called for direct U.S. military action in Pakistan, with or without Pakistani approval. Speaking to the Woodrow Wilson Center, he said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” President Bush took Senator Obama’s recommendation this past July, authorizing such actions.

This is an example of the classic strategic error of sacrificing a more important goal to one of lesser importance. Not even outright defeat in Afghanistan would do America’s interests as much damage as would the disintegration of the Pakistani state and the transformation of Pakistan into another stateless region. The state of Pakistan is already dangerously fragile, and actions such as cross-border raids by American troops will diminish its legitimacy further. No government that cannot defend its sovereignty will last. Ironically, if Pakistan collapses, so does our position in Afghanistan, because our main logistics line will be cut. In effect, Obama wants to hand al-Qaeda and the Taliban a double victory.

In June of this year, Obama spoke to the annual AIPAC conference. What he said there about Iran put him once again firmly in the Bush camp:

As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….

There should be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action to defend our security and our ally Israel. Do not be confused.

Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed and have more support at home and abroad if we have exhausted our diplomatic options. That is the change we need in our policy.

In other words, the change we need in our policy is to offer a bit more diplomatic kabuki before we attack Iran.

As I have said repeatedly and will keep on saying, an attack on Iran could cost us the whole army we have in Iraq. It could set the region on fire, from Afghanistan to the Nile. It could create an oil crisis with severe economic consequences at a time when the world economy is tottering. It is, in short, madness. But it is also what Obama promised AIPAC.

Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment Party, and its internal disagreements are minor. Both McCain and Obama are Establishment Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which, unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.

Such is the “choice” the American people get in November. As a monarchist, it is sometimes hard to keep from smiling.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Direct line: 703 837-0483

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Filed in Uncategorized | 10 responses so far

10 Responses to “On War #274: Why Obama Is Wrong”

  1. Barryon 17 Sep 2008 at 4:35 pm 1

    The tribal areas of Pakistan are in effect a part of Afghanistan (from where the British took them). The 20 families who share the running of Pakistan, and own most of it, do not have any sympathy for the Waziristan hillbillies. Pakistan’s current army leadership are playing to the gallery. Lets not forget they have India to worry about, India already has the motive (Kashmir), and the means to interfere.

  2. senor tomason 17 Sep 2008 at 6:03 pm 2

    “an attack on Iran could cost us the whole army we have in Iraq.”

    If McCain gets elected, probably not. Very likely McCain would be willing to use tactical nukes to save our army in Iraq from the Iranians.

    [CR: Whereupon the Iranians, who have obviously thought of this, would … ?]

  3. HiYouAllitsMeon 18 Sep 2008 at 2:57 am 3

    Winning an election and putting out fires of conflict are two different problems related by two major factors; one task must be done first and done in a manor that does not prevent one from completing the second task.

    Since previous elections have provided sufficient evidence, that a village of the not very luciferious will elect one their own, one must first recognize political realities and then events on the grounds of conflict can be in play.

    Some chance of intelligence is better than the experience of none.

  4. gpanfileon 18 Sep 2008 at 7:34 am 4

    While benevolent despotism is certainly the best form of government, the problem is the rarity of the former quality. The pickle we are collectively in results from the Presidency becoming hereditary, and a stolen election involving those obligated by favors to the current occupant’s father and brother. Similarly, the way our war machine is used and configured, and the present financial crisis, are the results of looting by a privileged oligarchy. We’ve seen this film before in Europe and know how it ends.

    Similarly, the ethno-territorial problems in the Mideast, Balkans, and South Central Asia all result from the actions of an imperialist, monarchical regime, our true founding fathers, the British. Basing our system too closely on theirs, we have converged on their results… overstretch, oligarchy, and excess profiteering.

    Senator Obama is smart enough to know that if he fails to enunciate certain platitudes, the Rove propaganda machine (excelled in history only by that of Goebbels) will press buzzwords on the uninformed and uninvolved electorate in such a way as to ensure the election of McCain, and perpetuate what is currently going on. HiYouAllItsMe states this clearly enough.

  5. Duncan C Kinderon 18 Sep 2008 at 9:56 am 5

    “Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power”

    A casual survey of the financial section of any newspaper provides evidence of of limits so obvious that even mainstream pundits now are beginning to grasp that – perhaps, just possibly – there may indeed be some sort of financial limits that could constrain us.

    I have elsewhere proposed the Amish as a society well adapted to confront the problems that confront us. Those interested in an easily digestible introduction to Amish ways might enjoy the Ohio Amish Mystery series.

  6. amagion 18 Sep 2008 at 10:53 am 6

    I suspect Lindt is a monarchist because he sees his rightful place as advisor to a monarch.

    If he saw himself as a peasant, I think he might feel differently.

    [CR: This is absolutely 100% WRONG and an insult to Lind!! He sees himself AS the monarch.]

  7. Guyon 18 Sep 2008 at 1:54 pm 7

    @gpanfile, Britain in the M.E. and S.E. Asia was following sensible tactics, using Divide and Conquer (and mass use of tribal[-ist] troops) in order to propagate British rule using the minimum of force. Observe how their influence lasted over two centuries and allowed rule with only a tiny Imperial Gendarmerie of an Army.

    Britain fell apart when the original trade and power politics of the early British Empire were swapped for the Late Victorian Imperial trappings, when the Empire became a status symbol leading to financial, political and military overstretch and a lack of flexibility.

    The Balkans are a good example of a Wilsonian failure though, an effort based not on thought but on the emotional response and principle of the British public to Ottoman outrages.

  8. loggie20on 18 Sep 2008 at 8:18 pm 8


    More than “Imperial trappings” unwound the British Empire. The Brits expected that the colonies economic benificence would pay for WW I. This was almost correct.

    WW II, the vast expense and the ideological nature of the war encouraged the colonies to seek independence; the fact the colonies could not be sustained and the war debts met.

    In other words by the late 40’s the economic case for the colonies was lost.

    The colonies’ benefits could not justify the costs to keep them.

  9. Guyon 19 Sep 2008 at 4:49 pm 9

    Exactly, Britain kept the colonies as part of its Imperial trappings, despite the fact they were losing money. If I recall correctly only Malaya was making a real profit by the time WW2 broke out. The rest was subsidised by Britain (which money could have been used to improve British Industry from its Victorian status). Corelli Barnett is particularly excellent on this.

  10. senor tomason 24 Sep 2008 at 11:25 am 10

    ” Whereupon the Iranians, who have obviously thought of this, would … ?”

    Their best option would be to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz is only two miles wide so this would be easy to do. The Persian Gulf would effectively becom the Persian Lake.

    Of course, the United States Navy claims they can prevent this from happening. But with their obsession with large ships and obsolete aircraft carrier task forces it seems they are ill equipped to carry out a major operation in a small space. And the Iranians have their shore in this area armed to the teeth with Exocet and Silkworm anti-ship missiles. A confrontation there could turn into a turkey shoot with United States Navy warships being the turkeys.