Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Andrew Sullivan likes Obama

No way I can do justice in a blog post to all that Andrew Sullivan says. Go read for yourself. Read this first...

It remains an inconvenient truth that those neocons now hailing the surge's success would not be able to do so if Americans had taken their advice and voted Republican in 2006. Rumsfeld would still be defense secretary and Cheney's grip on national policy would remain unshakable. But it has been shaken...

Without a vote for the Democrats in 2006, Gates would probably not be at the Pentagon, and Rice would not have been emboldened to shift course on the peace process, and the CIA might not have had the stomach to fight back against Cheney on Iran intelligence. That was the turning point.

And although it was a Democratic victory, it may help salvage something for the Bush administration's legacy in the Middle East. And that is the deeper point. No single party in our polity can claim credit for all of this. The course adjustment was a function of different entities fighting one another, reacting to events and facts, and thereby forging a more sensible war policy. What no single entity wanted came eventually to pass. It's shaping up to be a text-book lesson in the virtues of separating powers. Dictatorships cannot do this in wartime, which is why they often lose; neither can unchecked executives in democracies. But it's a good thing.

...if the president is wise, he'll allow all this to shift, and take some of the credit. And if the country is wise, they'll pick a successor who can unite the country around a prudent path forward.

Damn. He's good. And he's right.

Now go to this much longer essay and see what he says about Obama...

What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

The other obvious advantage that Obama has in facing the world and our enemies is his record on the Iraq War. He is the only major candidate to have clearly opposed it from the start. Whoever is in office in January 2009 will be tasked with redeploying forces in and out of Iraq, negotiating with neighboring states, engaging America’s estranged allies, tamping down regional violence. Obama’s interlocutors in Iraq and the Middle East would know that he never had suspicious motives toward Iraq, has no interest in occupying it indefinitely, and foresaw more clearly than most Americans the baleful consequences of long-term occupation. (screen page 3)

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