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March 28, 2009



Yesterday’s announcement of the administration’s Afghan build-up brought this shot to mind.

It ran on the TIME WH photo blog about two weeks ago and was taken during a dedication ceremony of the Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University at Fort McNair. (As you notice, Lincoln is on the program cover.) Beyond my discomfort seeing Obama in such perfect alignment with the top brass (did Obama and Gates pick out the same tie?), I’m sorry to see Obama’s affinity for Lincoln employed in the service of the war complex.

(image: unattributed. Caption (L to R) U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen read their programs during a dedication ceremony of Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.)

  • Sergei Andropov

    Lincoln was a war president, too.

  • Reece

    I was about to say the same thing, Sergei.
    Is it just me, or does he look almost relaxed up there with two real warmongers? The head slightly cocked, firm expression on his face…
    I’m getting nervous.

  • scrabbleharder

    “That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin”
    ~ Gene Wolfe

  • nightbird

    uh… the POTUS is the CIC. What is it you expected? (This is a real question.) I am sincerely interested in your answers.

  • jtfromBC

    ‘As Barack Obama announces more US troops to train the Afghanistan army, John D McHugh reports on how US soldiers view their Afghan counterparts as ill-disciplined, badly led and with a crippling taste for hashish.’

  • Rima

    Why doesn’t Sec. Gates have a de rigueur flag lapel pin?

  • JayDenver

    I have to agree with Nightbird @ President Obama is the CiC of the Armed Forces. Isn’t it preferable to see the SecDef and Chair,JCS as being in alignment with him rather than the reverse? I noted from watching the dedication on C-Span that this photograph was probably taken during the time that Lt. General Wilson, who is President of National Defense University, was giving her remarks. It was interesting to see the three officials start looking at the dedication brochure when she began her welcoming remarks. It reminded me that people do this sort of thing during graduations, dedications, and memorials of all kinds — a very normal behavior.
    I’m beginning to think that many of the photos we “analyse” are really Rorschach tests and reveal more about us than the subjects portrayed.

  • Sohpronia

    Exactly my thought too. Lincoln was a war president for his entire tenure in office. I don’t know if this pic shows anything beyond that they are comfortable with each other. Would you rather they be at loggerheads?

  • Tom Traubert

    Beyond my discomfort seeing Obama in such perfect alignment with the top brass
    You know, they work for him now. And I doubt he designed the brochure himself. It is at the Abraham Lincoln Hall, ya know.

  • stevelaudig

    All three are intently studying the same map to nowhere. True enough Lincoln became a war president but only after doing what he could to avoid it and cleverly inducing the South [led by lunkheads stupid enough to take the bait [ancestral but lineal to "W" Bush] to start it.
    Where’s the LBJ room? He adopted his predecessor’s war as Obama is now doing.
    More [less?] change we can [pretend to] believe in.

  • cenoxo

    Every war — and by extension, the modern military industrial complex that General Eisenhower warned us about — adopts its own President.
    Democrat Kennedy, although branded by (and possibly assassinated in revenge for) the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, committed United States forces to Vietnam with hopes of chasing out the Communists. Democrat LBJ inherited and greatly expanded that American War hoping to keep the dominoes upright by chasing out Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. Vietnam fell anyway with disastrous results…

    …leaving the chant Hey, hey, LBJ — how many kids did you kill today? echoing in its dust.
    Republican Bush invaded Taliban Afghanistan in hopes of catching Terrorist Osama and the Group, but missed him and caught former ally Dictator Hussein instead. Now, with Iraq still needing American shoulders to lean on, Democrat Obama hopes to chase the Taliban Resurgent out of Afghanistan (which likely includes pursuing them into neighboring Islamic Pakistan).
    Can you say “mission creep”, boys and girls? Of course we can: we’ve had decades of practice.
    The still-impotent Democratic antiwar movement in the U.S.A. has largely faded away while faithfully hoping for change from a still-expansionist Administration. However, even Defeatocrats can only take so much. From The Atlantic, March 29, 2009 article, The Angry Left:

    “Hey Obama, yes we can. Troops out of Afghanistan“, chanted the crowd. “Barack, Barack, Barack, Afghanistan’s the same as Iraq“. And this: “NoBomba!” At last weekend’s anti-war protest in Washington — the first of the Obama era — the refrains were clever, if perhaps somewhat predictable. But the frustration of the activists was hardly canned.
    “It doesn’t look like Obama is changing anything,” said Kyle Quigley, an Iraq War veteran who had traveled from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to attend the rally. The president’s decision to delay withdrawal from Iraq by three months is a sign, Quigley argued, of Obama’s “backsliding” on his campaign promise to end the war. Quigley’s frustration with the president was shared by many of the anti-war activists at the rally…
    …organizers are hopeful the tide will eventually turn against Obama’s go-slow approach. A Gallup poll released this month shows opposition to the war in Afghanistan at an all-time high, with 42 percent of Americans now saying the United States made a mistake sending troops to the country. If the economic crisis continues to intensify, more and more Americans could come to believe that the country no longer possesses the fiscal and military resources to sustain long-term nation-building overseas. As President Obama takes ownership of American foreign policy, some Republicans might even warm to this position…

    Can’t wait to see the first Republican anti-war march…

  • lytom

    All three look so comfortable! Lincoln does not come to mind. It is a wishful thinking!
    Widening the war in Afghanistan, more drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Hillary to change the Middle East :-) and staying in Iraq, wow. Tell me it is a change in the course!?

  • harrier

    I’m sorry not to contribute more that a quotation, but I recently re-read Mark Twain’s late thoughts on imperialism. While familiar they bear repeating”
    “You ask me about what is called imperialism. Well, I have formed views about that question. I am at the disadvantage of not knowing whether our people are for or against spreading themselves over the face of the globe. I should be sorry if they are, for I don’t think that it is wise or a necessary development. As to China, I quite approve of our Government’s action in getting free of that complication. They are withdrawing, I understand, having done what they wanted. That is quite right. We have no more business in China than in any other country that is not ours. There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it — perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands — but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector — not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now — why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I’m sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.” – Mark Twain

  • stevelaudig

    Isn’t the lesson of the last century that all imperial ventures end in failure? They are either large, long, devastating failures such as Vietam I [France] and II [United States], Afghanistan I [Soviet Union] and Afghanistan II [United States]; or small, brief failures [Suez]. But I suppose it is a fair question to ask how do you score Panama [1989?] and Grenada [1986?] and Iraq I but no one is comparing Afghanistan to Panama and Grenada. And Iraq II fully negates whatever success Iraq I could be argued to have been. Saddam Hussein was as much evidence of the difficulty of governing Iraq as he was crime in governing it.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    True enough Lincoln became a war president but only after doing what he could to avoid it and cleverly inducing the South [...] to start it.

    Uh, I wouldn’t think that “cleverly inducing the South to start it” counts as “doing what he could to avoid it”. Then there’s the fact that Lincoln didn’t get in to the war to free the slaves — that was a justification that was created years after the war had begun. How can you think he was a great President?

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