How would state Sen. Barack Obama have reacted to President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya, taken with no debate and no authorization from Congress, a commitment that could in real life become open-ended and involve this country in a prolonged civil conflict?
In his own words, not that well. On Oct. 2, 2002, at the height of the Iraq war debate, he declared himself opposed to “a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but passion against a ‘bad guy’ who butchered his people, but posed no direct threat to this country, that could lead to an open-ended, unbounded involvement of unknown duration and cost.”
For a man who campaigned as the polar opposite of President George W. Bush, it is amazing how Obama is replicating his predecessor’s problems, if not quite in the order in which they occurred. He had his Gulf of Mexico disaster in the oil spill problem with BP.
He may have his Abu Ghraib in the photos now coming out of Afghanistan of atrocities allegedly committed against Afghani civilians. And now he has his own war of choice in the Middle East against a sadistic and menacing tyrant. And he is facing the same sort of complaints that outraged liberals are now making about his actions in Libya that he and they made about Bush.
Elected to repudiate Bush, Obama has been forced to repeat and even endorse him, and carry his policies on.
Obama is a liberal mugged by reality, if not by the hard hand of fate. He tried to close Guantanamo Bay, and found that he couldn’t — the prisoners, most of them very bad people, couldn’t be turned loose, and no one would
He tried to end the wars, and found that he couldn’t — fragile as it is, Iraq is a democracy (and one Vice President Joe Biden called one of Obama’s great successes); and Afghanistan is what Obama himself labeled the “good” war, the one he couldn’t give up.
If he closed Guantanamo, he would be very unpopular. Bush’s wars were difficult enough that they needed attention, and successful enough that if he should lose them, the blame would be his.
He ended up in this way with the Bush war on terror, with the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Bush timetables, with the Bush surge strategy (which he had opposed as a U.S. senator) and Bush’s general, who had emerged as a public sensation.
When the uprising in Libya looked like a bloodbath, he endorsed regime change to depose a dangerous tyrant, the third such war in a Muslim country and the first that Obama hadn’t inherited — not one of the messes he had been handed, but a mess (should it become one) of his very own.
“I have all along wished for Barack Obama’s success because I knew the only way for him to be a successful president would be to adopt the policies of President Bush,” writes blogger Don Surber.
It’s back to the future once more.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”