Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gene Lyons takes a look at the Big Picture


Filipe II de Habsburgo: at least he didn't try to invade Afghanistan

Gene Lyons understands broad contexts in American politics as well as nitty-gritty reporting. But he uses commendable caution in minimizing his flights into grand historical generalizations. He makes an exception, though, in They're Obama's wars now Salon 05/14/09:

On TV chat shows, national security thinkers wax portentous at the dire prospect of the Taliban gaining control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. In sober moments, most admit that this is as unlikely as white supremacist militias overrunning the Pentagon, but it definitely makes for exciting melodrama.

And TV melodrama is how America governs itself. Within the Washington establishment, it's well-nigh treasonous to point out that we're talking here about the absolute end of the earth. That the United States hasn't got the manpower, resources or political will to control territory Pakistan's own government can't tame, and that the habit of treating the entire planet as a huge game of Risk is leaving the United States as overextended militarily and financially as the Spanish Empire in 1588 -- the year its Armada was destroyed off the coast of Ireland.
I'll have to declare myself agnostic on the likelihood of Obama finding himself in the position of Philip II (Filipe II de Habsburgo). But he's right in pointing out the risks.

Despite the headline on the article, Lyons isn't trashing Obama over the Iraq and AfPak Wars, though he clearly thinks escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a bad idea. He recognizes that Bush and Cheney left the country and the current administration with two awful problems in those wars. On the AfPak escalation, he writes that Obama seems "to be heeding a sports proverb: Always change a losing game".

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