article

08.31.10

Obama's Combat Catch-22

Despite Obama's moving speech, Bush will get the credit for Iraq—while 44 bogs down in Afghanistan, with little chance for similar redemption.

Despite Obama's moving televised speech from the Oval Office about the Iraq pull out, Bush will get the credit for Iraq—while 44 bogs down in Afghanistan, with little chance for similar redemption. Plus, read more reactions to the presidential address from Matt Latimer, Louise Roug, Mark McKinnon, Tunku Varadarajan, and Stephen L. Carter.

I found Obama's speech surprisingly moving. It's hard to look at the state America is in now and think that bombing a sinkhole of a place into a tremulous, corrupt, still-violent investment prospect is worth what we paid for it. But Obama's image of the troops crossing over to Kuwait was so vivid I felt the sacrifice with acute sadness.

So much hot air and noise has been spent in the last week denouncing the war's false origins and cost in treasure and lamenting the loss of life. But the president's pensive image of heroes streaming out in the "pre-dawn darkness" was deeply affecting. It conjured a verbal moment of necessary pause. David Gergen's comment afterwards on CNN that Republicans wouldn't like the speech because "Obama said he loved the troops but hated the war" was absurd. Surely such a sentiment was wholly appropriate. Who loves a war? No one who has ever fought in one.

It's as if America's selfish oblivion at home while others died abroad was about a nation surreptitiously smelling its own decline.

The seven years that have passed seemed suddenly so long ago. And now here we all are feeling broke and dealing with our own "rebuilding," as Obama called it. It's as if America's selfish oblivion at home while others died abroad was about a nation surreptitiously smelling its own decline. Mistakes can be terminal. Iraq made us drop the ball in Afghanistan and has triggered a seven-year war and millions of dollars in additional debt. And the irony is that Bush may get away with saying he transformed Iraq, while Obama gets stuck with a war in Afghanistan that offers no such transformation. As Fareed Zakaria said Tuesday night on CNN, one likely outcome is a surge with no awakening there.

More Daily Beast writers on Obama’s speech

Ten Iraq War Legacies
Afghanistan is a corrupt tribal society fueled by heroin instead of oil. Iraq can now claim to be the 12th fastest-growing economy in the world. All the sacrifice in Obama's war is highly unlikely to produce a viable prosperous country where women will be allowed to sustain the gains our blood and treasure fostered. When he stood in those roaring stadiums feeding our hopes with "change you can believe in," did he or any of us imagine this would be the new reality?

Plus, read more of the Beast wrap on Obama's speech from Matt Latimer, Louise Roug, Mark McKinnon, Tunku Varadarajan, and Stephen L. Carter.

Tina Brown is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast. She is the author of the 2007 New York Times best seller The Diana Chronicles. Brown is the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown.