Work and Days

A Summer of War and Politics

Why Do Europeans Love Obama?

Let us count the ways:

1) Obama’s tax code, support of big government programs and redistribution of income, and subservience to UN directives delight the European masses—especially at a time when their own governments are trying to cut taxes, government, seek closer relations with the US, and ask a petulant, pampered public to grow up.

2) He offers Euros a sort of cheap assuagement of guilt—in classic liberal style. When Obama says falsely that he does not look like other Americans who have addressed Germans (cf. Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice who have represented US foreign policy abroad the last 7 years), Europeans feel especially progressive—and therefore need not worry that no one of African ancestry would ever become a European Prime- or Foreign-Minister.

3) Europe is weak militarily and won’t invest in its own defense. But with Obama, they believe the US will subject its enormous military strength to international organizations—usually run by utopian Europeans. So they will play a thinking-man’s Athens to our muscular Rome. They especially lap up Obama’s historical revisionism in which he lectures about the world’s effort to feed Berlin or tear down the communist wall, never the solitary, lonely efforts of a Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan to confront the evils of communism when almost everyone else preferred not to.

4) Style, style, style. Remember socialist Europe is where we get our designer eyeglass frames, Gucci bags, and French fashions. Instead of a strutting, Bible-quoting Texan, replete with southern accent and ‘smoke-em’ out lingo, they get an athletic, young, JFK-ish metrosexual, whose rhetoric is as empty as it is soothing. The English-only Obama lectures America on its need to emulate polyglot Europe; while a Spanish-speaking George Bush is hopelessly cast as a Texas yokel.

5) Obama reassures Europeans that they, not American right-wingers, “won” the classical debates of the 1990s over economics, foreign policy, and government. He is a world citizen, who buys into human-created massive global warming, wind and solar over nuclear and clean coal, high taxes, and cradle-to-grave entitlements, and resentments of the rich. There is a certain European “We told you so” that comes with his election. In short, we elect a world citizen with a European view, and put behind us the embarrassments of a Texan or cowboy actor.

The final irony?

The hated George Bush is still around; Chirac, Schroeder, Villapin et al. are history. Iraq is secure. Iran is becoming isolated. North Korea supposedly is denuked. And America is reassuring a jittery Europe that we will stick by them in a world of bullying Russians and Chinese.

A Modest Prediction

In 5 years, Europeans will prefer George Bush to a “We are right behind you” Obama.

What a difference a year makes!

A little more than a year ago most Americans—and nearly all the Democratic opposition in Congress—opposed the surge of troops into Iraq and Gen. David Petraeus’s change of tactics.

The conventional wisdom after four long years of war was that we were stuck in the middle of a hopeless civil war. There was no American military solution to quell the violence. The Iraq government was not only incompetent, but proof that democratic government itself was incompatible with Middle Eastern culture and religion.

Pundits were advocating trisecting the country into separate Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves. Our presence in Iraq caused us to have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, while empowering Iran, and helping al Qaedi to gain new recruits in a new theater of operations. Democratic presidential candidates were hammering each other over Iraq and demanding that those who had voted to authorize the invasion apologize for their vote. Barack Obama wanted all American troops out by March 2008.

A New Political Reality

And now? July is closing with the fewest number of American combat fatalities since the war started. There is no civil war. The Maliki government has put down Shiite militias and won back Sunnis into the elected administration, and, as an autonomous and confident government, is in tense negotiations with the US over future basing of American troops. Al Qaeda has been humiliated and routed from Iraq. American troops, versed in counterinsurgency, are being redeployed to Afghanistan to reapply what worked against jihadists in Iraq. Iranian-backed militias are being disbanded or have fled back into Iran. The additional surge troops are now out of Iraq. Democratic opponents suddenly concede that the withdrawal of American troops should be predicated on conditions on the ground. Anti-war activists critique Iraq more as a possibly successful war not worth the human and material costs rather than an effort long ago lost.

What Happened?

So what happened in the last twelve months to cause such a radical turn-about in Iraq and here at home? The surge added some needed troops, but more importantly sent the symbolic message that the United States was not leaving, but determined—militarily—to defeat terrorists and give the Iraqi government critical time to consolidate its authority.

The so-called Anbar awakening in which Sunni tribal leaders turned on al Qaeda and joined forces with us was not caused directly by the surge, but would have failed without the confidence more Americans were on the way to support their fight against al Qaeda. Americans began to turn from counter-terrorism to counterinsurgency tactics that meant dispersing combat troops out of compounds and into Iraqi neighborhoods where they could protect Iraqis who resisted terrorism.

Don’t Forget …

Two critical developments are relatively unappreciated, but likewise proved critical. The first was the continual growth and improvement in the Iraqi security forces that now include many veteran units that have learned to confront and defeat terrorists.

Second, between 2003-7 American forces took an enormous toll on jihadists. We have heard mostly how many Americans have been lost, rarely how many of the enemy they have killed or wounded—but the aggregate number is in the tens of thousands. Even in postmodern wars, there are finite numbers of skilled combatants—and many of them simply did not survive their encounter with American troops.

Nothing New

None of this volatility is new in American military history. The American Revolutionary War ebbed and flowed for nine years, variously pronounced won, lost, and won again. The Union thought it had won, then had lost, and finally won the Civil War during the last 16 months of the conflict. The Philippine insurrection, in various phases, lasted 14 years, often praised as won and condemned as lost. No war was more mercurial than the Korean between 1950-53, in which the American public was convinced the war was hopeless before it ended in1953 with the preservation of South Korea.

In most of these struggles, the efforts of just a few rare individuals—a Washington, Grant, Sherman, Ridgway—proved crucial. We remember their names, not the thousands of pundits who declared them incompetent and their wars lost. Long after a Seymour Hersh,, Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan, Harry Reid and others are forgotten, Americans will still remember what David Petraeus did for our country. Amen to that!