President Obama famously announced as a state senator that he didn't oppose all wars - only dumb wars.  But he has shown a proclivity for liking dumb wars as President.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, June 26, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

How Barack Obama Made Me a Pacifist

When Barack Obama announced his opposition to the Iraq War at a Chicago rally in 2002 (he was then only a State Senator), he famously said he was "not opposed to war in all circumstances." Obama then mentioned the Civil War and WWII.

All right. Being Jewish, I oppose Hitler. And the Japanese did bomb us. And I'm in love with Abraham Lincoln.

But we now see a war that Obama likes - the Afghanistan War. Of course, he didn't start the war - it was under George Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11, that we invaded Afghanistan nine years ago.

Obviously, the goal was to deal a blow to our attackers, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. We succeeded - to the extent that both have moved on, the former to Pakistan, the latter to Pakistan and hot spots around the globe.

Now we are fighting the Taliban - an indigenous religious- and ethnic-based group. "Indigenous" - sends chills down your spine, doesn't it? Indigenous means: dug in, they live there, they know the terrain, they have friends and cousins all over the place, they have nowhere else to go.

Afghanistan seems like a nice place - for a National Geographic documentary. The country is steeped with piercingly barren mountains, cold, unforgiving, dotted with impoverished, desolate villages. This is where Americans go to fight - and die.

Meanwhile, the government there doesn't work. The country is ruled by warlords. We pay the warlords not to attack our convoys. They take the money and buy arms - and pay tribute to the Taliban. Kind of a perpetual motion machine.

Stanley McChrystal was just removed as the general in charge, for cutting up all of the other Americans engaged in that country - the President, Vice President, ambassador to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When you're losing, infighting gets a good chance to fester.

How well are we doing after close to a decade in the country? We are just now landing more troops and designing whole new strategies and approaches to pacifying the population. Could take many more years - even decades. At the cost of trillions.

That's not going to happen. We'll end up redefining our mission and withdrawing somewhere down the line - sooner or later. Kind of like Iraq, but probably worse (that depends on how badly things go in Iraq after we eventually leave that country).

Here's where I'm becoming a pacifist. We no longer fight wars against people who attack us. We fight wars for complicated internal purposes - internal to our politics, internal to the invaded country's affairs where (as in Iraq) we try to figure out a government that will work there. That's a tough job which we seem to overestimate our capacity to perform - does our government work well here?

The process requires us to send young Americans to fight and die in circumstances like those depicted in the new movie Restrepo. They get shot at under unspeakable conditions - some die - and then the survivors withdraw because of internal politics - the other country's and ours.

Of course, that's easy for us - including the Congress and President - to ignore. Their kids and friends' kids aren't dying. They can just say how much they support our fighting men and women - and go off to another skirmish with the likes of McChrystal and the Republicans (or the Democrats).

But the dead remain dead forever.

And, oh, so will Afghanistan remain forever.