Obama will be haunted now by a liberal attitude that has poisoned his candidacy and his presidency. Wesley Clark ran for president in 2004 with policies that opposed the invasion of Iraq. Howard Dean also opposed the invasion of Iraq. But what happened, and it was not entirely Dean’s fault, is that a vast swarth of liberal America moved to Dean because they opposed not just the invasion of Iraq, but war. They opposed unpleasantness; they opposed violence; they opposed all war; they opposed the idea of war. It was a historic carriage from the anti-war movement of the ’60s and ’70s. I attended the first demonstrations that opposed the invasion of Iraq in Montpelier, Vt., and the same people were there who were there in the ’60s. People like Dave Dellinger of the Chicago Seven, aging Norma Desmonds, waiting for Max to come in for their final close-ups.
This was not Dean’s position. It was not Obama’s. And it was certainly not Wes Clark’s, who said, “When I say I’ll bring back Osama bin Laden dead or alive, I mean it.” But what accumulated in the liberal path to 2008 was a hope that the need for violence would simply go away; a pacifistic denial of the reality of the situation and the responsibilities attached to it that we faced after 9/11. And Obama was seen as the “anti-war” president.
Maybe he is.
12/25 has refocused America’s energies. It has brought us back to square one when half the men in my town were wearing firefighter’s hats.
War prepares people for more war. World War I displaced the isolationism of the 19th century and conditioned the country for more focused efforts in WW II. Likewise the Mexican War brought America, north and south, out of the benign utopianism of the previous decades and refocused their efforts on moral and political issues.
The first few years in Iraq may have brought such conditioning. The passivism of the ’60s is passing now as that generation passes. The necessities of safety are coming out of denial. This will be the telling year for America and for Obama; the question is, Does he have the abilities and the character to face up?
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