Obama vs. Nixon

In a speech on foreign policy recently, specifically the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said that, really, our priority needs to be the American economy.  I was struck with how much the President’s priorities were just the opposite of Richard Nixon’s, which certainly doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but let me elaborate.

Nixon wrote in his memoirs that he was so committed to winning in Vietnam that he was willing to go along with the domestic policies of liberal Democrats.  He was willing to do what it took to maintain the political support for a war he thought was crucial in our struggle against communism in the Cold War.  Nixon wanted to win for the sake of the people of Vietnam, but also to reassure our allies that we remained resolute against the Communists.  Nixon wanted our allies to know that they could count on us.  Of course, Vietnam wasn’t exactly a win for the US, but that’s a story for another day.

Barack Obama had never supported American efforts in Iraq; that was what helped him get elected President.  Ending the active military phase of operations (or however they’re terming it), is a step in the right direction for him.  President Obama has always said that our real enemy was in Afghanistan, so that was where our focus should be.

If the economy is now our real priority, though, what kind of pressure does that put on the President to cut political deals on US policy in Afghanistan?   What might he be willing to agree to in order to pass legislation?  Cutting deals on domestic policies is politics as usual.  Deal-making  with war policy threatens to reduce our soldiers to the status of pawns.  I pray that our politicians, don’t act that cynically.