Wednesday, 4 November 2009

President Barack B Johnson?

I just had a piece posted on Progressonline: "To become a great president, Obama must learn to govern - as well as campaign - in poetry." The headline says it all, as does the conclusion:
"Another aphorism in US politics is that ‘Washington always wins.' As shown, there is cause for a healthy disdain of aphorism. If there's one man who can find a way of breaking iron rules, it's President Obama. Understandably, he keeps getting sidetracked, taking on Fox News rather than speaking to the American people. But he needs to discover his transcendent voice once again.

It's been a good year since his iconic victory. To become a great president, he must remember what secured that victory. He was the voice, inspiration and guide for a people who had lost their way. Mid-term elections loom a year from now. This is the moment. There is a fierce urgency to now."
In the piece, I discuss the coming decision he has to make on Afghanistan. It really is a bog strategic moment. It is dangerous to reduce such complex situations to binary options. However, if he goes for surge- as General Stanley McChrystal recommends- then he should really go for it. If he sends an additional 20,000 instead of 40,000 that will look weak and he will end up with the worst of both worlds. If he decides to retrench and go for a strategy more focused on counter-terrorism as opposed to counter-insurgency then he should have the courage of his convictions and explain why he has chosen such a course to the American people. Interestingly, earlier today Kim Howells advocated just such a course for the UK to take.

Whatever he decides, his presidency could be defined by this decision. The ghost of Lyndon B Johnson- a remarkably adept and successful reformist president domestically but with a disastrous foreign policy- hangs over the decision. He is right and wise to take his time.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was an excellent article on the Vietnam analogy: