"George W. Bush has led our country into war, into debt, and into isolation with the rest of the planet."
Last year, on the night before the election of President Obama, I wrote a lenghty entry covering all my November presidential ballots since 1980. Most of them were cast for the loser as opposed to the winner. 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004 - all cast for the non-winner. They weren't all cast for Democrats, although the more recent ones have been. Arguably in 2000 I voted for the winner, but he was later disqualified by the United States Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote.
In that entry last November, toward the end, I commented on the then-incumbent president and his vice president. And that paragraph began with the sentence above. "George W. Bush has led our country into war, into debt, and into isolation with the rest of the planet."
I think the phrasing of that sentence makes very clear that one of the many reasons I voted against George W. Bush was his involvement of America in the War in Iraq. None of us ever quite knew why we were engaged in that war, nor did anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW seem to know how we were going to get out of it. But, the American people, in blue states, purple states, and a few red states, made it clear, they wanted the war in particular, and the George W. Bush presidency in general, to come to an end.
To this new president's credit, our country is on a path of withdrawal from Iraq. We are ending our war in that country. But, we aren't ending our war. The president used the verb transition six different times in his speech tonight. We are transitioning from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is where this president, long before he was president, said we should be fighting, taking our aim - literally - at the forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban where they live. He has never wavered from this position. Thus, tonight's call for a surge of 30,000 troops should not come as any surprise to a student of Barack Obama. And, admittedly it doesn't.
But a lot of us who voted for Barack Obama to be president did so because we are against war - as opposed to being against the war, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Bosnia, Korea, Germany, or even perhaps Cuba. Many of last November's voters, for a variety of reasons, voted for pacifism.
Pacifism isn't to be confused or be in anyway interpreted as anti-American, or anti-military, or unpatriotic. We pacifists aren't any of those things. We support our troops, we support our Flag, we vote out of civic duty, and most of us absolutely believe we live in the greatest country in history. And we do. We unconditionally want our country to succeed and we want our country to live in peace.
My father is, like me, a pacifist. He also served his country in the United States Army Reserves as a young man. He is also very conservative ideologically, a registered Republican for nearly all of his life, until George W. Bush used the military in a way that was unacceptable and unpatriotic to my father, at which point he switched and became an Independent. Unlike me, he did not vote for Barack Obama. My guess is he voted for Bob Barr, but I do not know if that is the case. But, he has made it clear that he is not anymore happy with Barack Obama being president than he was with George W. Bush, a man for whom he voted twice, but later came to despise. In a recent conversation - one before tonight's speech - my father, knowing that I did vote for and worked hard to elect Obama, asked me if I have been happy with these first ten months of the Obama administration.
The answer is no. He was happy to hear that. But the bases of his disfavor of this administration are far different than mine. While we both want the president (and where he understands this differently from many of the tea-bagging Republicans, ultimately the country) to succeed, he thinks the president has gone too far, borrowed too much, promised too much, and overtaken too much. He sees no light at the end of a somewhat socialistic tunnel. I see it the other way. Voters called for a big change both in 2006 and 2008 and this president is effecting such change in a big way. I tend toward optimism. I hope the president's plan works, the country recovers, and peace and prosperity are once again by-words of our Republic.
So, I cannot say I am happy with the president's call for an additional 30,000 troops in what is now most assuredly his war. But I am hopeful he is correct. I am hopeful our engagement in Iraq is at an end. I am hopeful that our engagement in Afghanistan will come to the end he has planned in 2011. I am most hopeful that, irrespective of how I feel about the president at this point in time, our country and her people succeed. Barack Obama is the person we have chosen to make that happen, to make the big change a majority of us sought in the ballot booth in 2008.
I am consoled by the knowledge that this president, first of all, has a plan; the last one didn't. I am consoled by the knowledge that this man is a very smart man, in stark contrast to his predecessor. I am consoled by the knowledge that this president still understands the audacity of hope that people like me have in him even after this speech. He has a lot of work to do.
In the end, this is America, the greatest country on the planet. We shant despair, we will proceed. And I expect nothing less than success.