If you’ve ever wondered who the idiots are in the Republican Party — you know, the folks who lost us the presidency and both houses of Congress — you need look no further than the catalog of prominent pundits and politicians now calling for the resignation of Michael Steele.
They’re not calling on Steele to resign because of inefficient fundraising or staff members expense accounting strip club trips. They’re after Steele for making a clear and sensible statement on the war in Afghanistan which echoes what many Republicans of the more sensible variety have been saying for years.
Steele was at a fundraiser in Connecticut and in a rambling speech he made a statement which was so clear that he had obviously been thinking about it a great deal — as have many of us for some time — pointing out that the war in Afghanistan was never a good idea, a basic truth which applies to the everyone who pushed for that war, even if he couches it as a criticism of Obama.
“This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in…Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan that do not…”
Much of the rest is inaudible, but he does go on to talk about how the ongoing war gives Democrats the opportunity to continue to blame Bush and transfer some of that blame to Republican candidates despite the fact that the war is now very much Obama’s war. These are sensible and perceptive observations of the kind I’m glad to see coming from the party’s leader.
Not everyone shared my happy response…
If you thought the part of the Republican party which favored mindless war and endless nation building was dead and discredited, the cries for his resignation in response to Steele’s comments proves that they still have a lot to say even if fewer and fewer Republicans are listening to them.
In his response, arch-neocon (and I only use that term when it is accurate) William Kristol quotes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, agreeing that Steele is at odds with “about 100 percent of the Republican Party.” Well, Kristol is as wrong about this as he was about invading Afghanistan in the first place. Kristol goes on to call Steele unpatriotic and an embarrassment, but some of us have been embarrassed by Kristol and his irresponsible promotion of unnecessary wars which put us a trillion dollars in debt. Perhaps he should go back and rejoin the Democrats since they have so much in common.
In a similar vein, Erik Erikson who has whored himself to CNN as their token blogging psychopath, declares that Steele has “lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.” Because apparently morality comes from rounding out a full decade of incredibly expensive and utterly pointless warmaking.
Liz Cheney joined the chorus by defending her father’s disastrous legacy, callng Steele’s comments “deeply disappointing and wrong.” Because nothing could be more right than spending untold money and lives in an effort which is utterly misdirected under rules of engagement which make success impossible.
Surprisingly, other Republican pundits have taken issue with Steele’s assigning of blame for the continuation of the war to President Obama, but the truth is that Obama promised to get us out of the war and has instead dragged the war out and done it under restrictions which make a useful resolution impossible. In fact, Steele has hit on a valid campaign issue which smart Republicans could make use of as November approaches.
Perhaps most important — and the clearest indication that Steele has thought about this question — is his final hard to hear comment about other means of engagement in Afghanistan. This is something which has been clear to sensible observers of the war of all political persuasions since the beginning of the conflict. An invasion and occupation was the wrong way to approach Afghanistan and the wrong way to exact retribution for the attack on the World Trade Center. It has left us fighting people who were not involved in the attack on us, while accomplishing little against the actual villains and wasting lives and money. From the beginning we should have taken a different approach with a quick and overwhelming strike against bin Laden himself which was resolved quickly either by catching him, killing him or declaring it not to be worth the effort. Punishing evildoers (in Bush’s words) is important, but there have to be limits and somewhere we lost track of that fundamentally Republican pragmatism. Steele seems to have rediscovered it.
Unfortunately, Steele has issued a statement to some degree countering his clearly well considered comments which were caught on video. I’d certainly prefer that he stuck by his guns, but caving in to critics is one of his major character flaws. Nonetheless he deserves some credit for saying publicly what so many of us have known since the war turned from efficient manhunt to endless and unproductive occupation. Perhaps raising this issue will help out the many Republican candidates who have been questioning our role in Afghanistan and legitimize their concerns.
Whatever else comes of it, one positive outcome is that the issue has become a kind of litmus test for who the biggest idiots in the Republican Party are. Michael Steele’s comments are absolutely true and sensible and the people who are attacking him are being exposed as kind of dogmatic buffoons who got us into these senseless wars and who have and will continue to harm the Republican party by their actions.
It is not unpatriotic and it is not a disservice to the troops to question the decisions of the government or the wisdom of a war. The United States should not be a nation which engages in mindless militarism. Questioning how our military is used and making sure it is used wisely are the minimum standard of responsibility we should demand from our leaders. To waste lives profligately in a war which has deviated so far from its stated purpose is irresponsible and a betrayal of our best ideals and our best interests.
Republicans who are unclear on this issue need look back no farther than the days of Ronald Reagan. He deployed troops a number of times, but in all cases for short durations with specific objectives. Reagan did not engage in nation building or long term occupations. He saw things which needed to be done, used the military effectively to do them, and knew when the job was done. Reagan was a real patriot who had respect for the military and showed it by using them well and not wasting their efforts. Reagan would applaud Michael Steele for his good sense.Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.