The day after Obama's election, working on my column for The Wave, I posed the question, "Will Obama turn out to be a great president or a failure? An FDR or a Herbert Hoover, who had an even lower approval rating than W? It could go either way. When you think of great presidents, they seem to emerge only in times of crisis. Think there are just a few lurking? FDR ran for president with a very different agenda than he ended up enacting due to desperate times. He showed the kind of flexibility that was needed. Policies that had a major impact for generations. "The problem I have had with Republicans is that they are driven by a narrow ideology that has helped put us into this mess. Like if you breathe government action, you are a socialist. But when it takes forms of socialism to bail out millionaires, why go right ahead. It was this sort of thinking that led to handing over billions to banks that should have had the requirement to be used as loans to free up credit but instead is being held onto by banks to buy other banks. One day soon we will have only three or four banks in this country. The only thing I have to fear is fear of Obama's dependence on the same old, same old Clinton people, who come out of places like Goldman Saks when we need some truly radical thinking. Bill Ayres, where are you when we need you?"
Well, almost a year later, it's looking a lot more Hoover than FDR. Now don't get me wrong. This is no tea-bag right wing criticism of Obama. I am coming from the far left, which has been just as critical. When the Republicans went after FDR's radical (at the time) call for things like social security, he laughed at them and organized his core supporters in a form of class warfare (even though he was from the upper class) and became the most loved president by working people ever. Instead of following in FDR's footsteps, Obama has kowtowed to his critics. For those of us itching for a class warfare fight, it is sickening.
Obama's education policy is even worse than Bush's as he supports all the evils that we have seen here in NYC as a result of the BloomKlein policies. On the economy, Obama seems to have sided with the banking class that got us into the mess. Goldman Saks seems to be running the country - and making billions. Worse for Obama has been the rising unemployment rate. Remember the Hoovervilles - tent cities of homeless that sprung up all over the country between 1929 and 1932? Tampa recently rejected a Catholic charities proposal to create a tent city for the homeless. They didn't call it Obamaville, but that is coming soon to a tent city near you.
How fast can you say "President Sarah Palin"? I'm already looking for a safe haven, like a condo in Kabul. Speaking of which ….
Let's talk Afghanistan
I must venture into foreign policy here before the raging debate on Afghanistan gets totally out of hand. First, a little historical perspective. Before Bush invaded after 9/11, that country had a rough stretch - of around 2000 years. Well, certainly 200 years. Take a look at a map of where Afghanistan sits. Iran on the east, Pakistan on the west and south and a bunch of small states that were part of the Soviet Union. The British controlled India/Pakistan until 1949 and ended up fighting three wars in Afghanistan to protect these areas from Russia. Every one was a disaster, with an entire British army being wiped out in the 1841. The more you look at history the more you can blame British colonial policy for many of the problems the world faces today as they created many artificial nations, ignoring tribal realities. Can you spell I-RA Q? Add Palestine/Israel, India/- Pakistan and the entire Middle East.
The Soviet Union took a crack at Afghanistan in 1979 when the Afghan government asked for help against a Mujahideen Islamist revolt, which was supported by Muslim nations, including Pakistan, while the government was supported by Pakistan's enemy, India. (The results of those British colonial machinations again.) President Carter punished the Soviets by boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and started sending aid to the rebels. But when Regan took over, he went much further, sending a great deal of support to the Mujahideen in an attempt to undermine the Soviet empire. The nine-year war really did in the Soviets and was instrumental in the ending of the Cold War. But watch out what you wish for. One of the people the Regan administration supported was a guy named Osama bin Laden and that led to the rise of Al Qaeda.
One of the strengths of the Taliban in defeating the Soviets was the moral imperative of fighting an incredibly corrupt and lawless government. With all the horrors they brought to the table, the Taliban also created such a harsh environment, the crooks and rapists couldn't operate. All the Taliban did was cut off the heads of girls who wanted to go to school.
Now, jump ahead to George Bush and the post 9/11 invasion. Instead of focusing on solidifying Afghanistan and dealing with Pakistan's support of Al Qaeda, he invaded Iraq, while leaving Afghanistan in the hands of one of the major crooks, Harmid Karzai. The "defeated" Taliban went back to work and "Voila," eight years later (one year less than the Soviet fun time in Afghanistan) we have the major pickle we are in. Think back to Vietnam in the '60s, with a fraction of the population and land area of Afghanistan. Our ally in South Vietnam had a corrupt and ineffective president. The CIA solution was to have Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated on November 2, 1963, an assassination approved by Kennedy. Three weeks later, he was dead himself. Remember, we pumped in over 500,000 troops. Estimates are that we would need at least double that in Afghanistan, not the measly 80,000 the military wants now. No matter how many troops end up there, the problem is Karzai and his band of merry thieves. That gives the Taliban the moral high ground. I wonder if the Obama administration sometimes doesn't think of the assassination option as a "solution" to that part of the problem. No matter what they decide to do, all options lead to disaster - lose/lose no matter what Obama decides to do. No one wants see the Taliban in power again, but it may be inevitable given the lack of an effective Afghani government forever. (Hey, maybe they could use Mayor Mike running the country?) The question on the table is whether to also lose thousands of American lives and untold billions of dollars and still lose the war. But no matter what, let's never forget that this no-win position is a result of the Bush disaster. And no matter how bad the Obama presidency gets, I wouldn't go backwards.