Dear Reader,

I know my given title in The Michigan Daily is “Political Satire Columnist,” but this week, we’ve gone through the looking glass. I’m afraid the bizarro right-wing me usually found in these margins and the real me actually agree. More unfortunately, we’re not alone.

A few months ago, I began writing this column and started off with a few pot-shots at a pretty easy target: former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. At the time, though I don’t doubt you recall, the Thrilla from Wasilla was oddly auctioning off a dinner with herself and Todd on eBay. This, I thought, would be a pretty good place to start. If you had any affection for or agreed with Sarah Palin on pretty much any issue, this column wasn’t going to be for you.

So in researching this week’s piece, which I knew would be about President Barack Obama and his announcement of a new Afghan war strategy, I went about trying to form an opinion on the matter. I made all the usual news and opinion rounds, hearing from eggheads like Thomas Friedman and George Will and watching as much cable news as is currently legal in the state. One source for information, and oftentimes comic gold, is the much-anticipated Sarah Palin Facebook posts. Following the president’s speech Tuesday night announcing the troop escalation, former governor Palin let her feelings on the matter be known.

Unfortunately, I pretty much agreed with her at every turn.

“President Obama decided to give his military commanders much of what they need to accomplish their mission in Afghanistan. In the end, he decided to endorse a ‘surge’ for Afghanistan, applying the counterinsurgency principles of ‘clear, hold and build’ that worked so well in Iraq. Given that he opposed the surge in Iraq, it is even more welcome that he now supports a surge in Afghanistan,” Palin wrote.

It can’t be. Not a semester ago I thought her the GOP’s equivalent of Michael Scott and now, aside from a few pot-shots of her own against Obama, her thinking couldn’t be more in line with mine. What’s going on?

It’s rare to see the political stars align as uniquely as they have since Obama’s address to the nation from West Point. In announcing his Afghan troop increase, the president was able to complete a remarkable cross-party Möbius strip, uniting both the anti-any-war left and pro-any-war right in a celebration of themselves and condemnation of the president. Like some kind of bi-partisan key party, the likes of Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly found common ground in their own self-righteousness. I guess it’s true: politics often make strange, and physically unappealing, bedfellows.

Naturally, each side of the political divide had its own grumblings about the president’s order for 30,000 more soldiers on the ground starting at the end of this year. Some on the right faulted the president for not speaking forcefully for victory while those against the troop surge wished they had heard a quicker proposed rate of American withdrawal. Moore and others believe resolutely that more blood spilled and treasure spent in Afghanistan is done in vain. Without a reliable or legitimate partner in Kabul, or the wide support of the Afghan people, those against the surge see flashes of the Vietnam war and the Soviet experience in a land that sent Alexander the Great home in shame. They tell the president the best course is one of retreat and consolation with the attackers and enablers of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. I just can’t bring myself to agree with them.

It isn’t my habit or pleasure to find common ground with Palin or Henry Kissinger, whom, in an earlier column, I inferred was a war criminal. But after listening to President Obama’s mature and reasoned argument for greater American involvement, ol’ HK and I were on the same side.

“(The surge) is important for the reasons President Obama mentioned: the danger that otherwise Afghanistan becomes another headquarters for al-Qaeda operations. Also, it’s important for the stability of Pakistan, crucial for the stability of Pakistan … I think the policy that was announced today deserves support and the reasons given for it deserve support,” the one-time war criminal said on Fox News.

For me, this is not nation-building; it’s fighting the real danger of a resurgent Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies. Yeah, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but that’s governing. You think Obama wants to fight a two-ocean public opinion war on both health care and an escalation in Afghanistan? Or does he have the solemn job of seeing problems this country has to face immediately and facing them. I don’t think the president is gauche enough to choose to tackle both a 100-year American health care problem and finishing the war President George W. Bush chose to forget just for his ego.

In many points during the Obama’s speech, he turned the thoughts of listening Americans to the voice of our country’s history. He cited the promise that has been made and the example that is set by a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. He turned our thoughts to our country as it entered the Second World War, a war my grandparents, who survived Hitler’s Final Solution, are grateful to the United States for entering. He turned our minds to Sept. 11, 2001 as the first point in the historical moment in which we find ourselves. He spoke of the great religion of Islam and its perversion by al-Qaeda and like-minded supporters. He spoke to the Afghan people. He spoke to the American people. He spoke to the world.

America’s track record as a global superpower in the last 50 years has not always been spotless but it has created the greatest opportunities the human race has ever had for peace and prosperity. Obama is deserving of every ounce of our scrutiny and testing, but those like Dick Cheney who chose to attack the commander-in-chief on the eve of sending our troops into battle, an attack made merely for political gain, deserve neither our respect nor consideration.

It’s yet to be seen whether Obama will be able to weather the rough seas he has chosen to try to conquer in his first term. Now that evangelical folk hero Mike Huckabee has all but called himself out of the 2012 presidential race, Palin seems to be locking down all the Republican constituencies that would win her the nomination: the half of the GOP that doesn’t believe in taxes and the half that doesn’t believe in evolution. I doubt she would be much of a challenge for Obama in 2012; the same can be said for the rest of the current slate of Republican presidential contenders. But whoever will lead this country for the next four, eight or 100 years, I only hope that he or she will be able to do what Obama did Tuesday night: make an unpopular decision that needs to be made, all the while speaking to the country like grown-ups.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.