Obama tells VFW that diplomacy is better than chest-beating

(AP)

(AP)

In an appearance at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Tuesday, President Obama mused publicly about the knee-jerk instinct of some to use force, in front of an audience that has seen first-hand the price of doing so:

For too long, there had been a mindset where the first instinct when facing a challenge in the world was to send in our military — and we have the greatest military in human history.  But we learned, painfully, where that kind of thinking can lead — that rushing into war without thinking through the consequences, and going it alone without broad international support, getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts and spreading our military too thin actually too often would play into the hands of our enemies.  That’s what they wanted us to do.”

And who paid the price?  Our men and women in uniform.  Our wounded warriors.  Our fallen heroes who never come home.  Their families, who carry that loss forever.

That’s an important point. We’ve seen the consequences of our heedless, unprovoked invasion of Iraq in the great gains that it has given neighboring Iran. Iraq, once an important counterweight to Iranian influence in the region, has been converted to an Iranian ally if not puppet-state. Our invasion and subsequent incompetent occupation also created a power vacuum that has allowed ISIS to rise.

What we don’t see quite so clearly is the price being paid here at home, by tens of thousands of American service personnel dealing daily with the physical, emotional and psychological aftermath of that war, a burden that many will carry for the rest of their lives.  Those who advocated for that war from the sidelines continue to enjoy places of honor and prestige, while many of those who carried out those policies suffer the consequences. And for the most part, you don’t see the price they pay unless you happen to be personally close to someone trying to deal with all that baggage. The rare exception would be high-profile cases such as that of Chris Kyle of “American Sniper” fame, who was killed while trying to assist another Iraq veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And the question, I guess, is what we learn from such mistakes. Do we do the hard work beforehand of thinking through our options and assessing the possible consequences, or do we succumb to the “first instinct” to turn to our military, the most powerful on the planet, to try to solve problems? It is a perpetual question in the modern world, and is likely to play an important role in the 2016 presidential election. Already, we’ve got leading candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination debating not whether, but how quickly, we ought to renege on our deal with Iran and employ our military against its  nuclear program.

In his VFW speech, Obama drew a stark contrast between the two approaches:

“In the debate over this deal, we’re hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past.  Some of the same politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq, and said it would take a few months.  And we know the consequences of that choice and what it cost us in blood and treasure.
 
So I believe there’s a smarter, more responsible way to protect our national security, and that is what we are doing.  Instead of dismissing the rest of the world and going it alone, we’ve done the hard and patient work of uniting the international community to meet a common threat.  Instead of chest-beating that rejects even the idea of talking to our adversaries — which sometimes sounds good in sound bites, but accomplishes nothing — we’re seeing that strong and principled diplomacy can give hope of actually resolving a problem peacefully.
 
Instead of rushing into another conflict, I believe that sending our sons and daughters into harm’s way must always be a last resort, and that before we put their lives on the line, we should exhaust every alternative.  That’s what we owe our troops.  That is strength and that is American leadership.”

There are no guarantees, of course. Diplomacy can fail, and it’s important to be prepared if it does. But I marvel at those who still argue that the military option somehow produces more reliable outcomes, because everything in American history over the past 70 years argues otherwise. War does not simplify things, it complicates things, and that is particularly true for those whom we ask to fight it.

Reader Comments 0

632 comments
JoelEdge
JoelEdge

"Our invasion and subsequent incompetent occupation"...then our failure to negotiate a SOF agreement and withdrawal. Nice try, Bookman, but everyone knows who lost Iraq. They're losing Syria, Egypt, Libya and petty soon any country with good sense will know they can't count on any support from the US.

anony123
anony123

The smartest POTUS in my lifetime. Period. 50 cents of every tax dollar pays for War. 20 cents of that pays for veteran entitlements. Its the worst cam in modern history. Exceptionally stupid.

Peachs
Peachs

In my parent's time we didn't lose wars we won them.  I think a large part of that was doing it as an Allied force rather than a unilateral move. My generation loss lives and wars for causes most of us did not and do not understand and obviously the results didn't matter because we are trading with Viet Nam like nothing happened just 50,000 dead. Those 50,000 were people we knew very well in many cases.  Now Trump calls em losers, and quiet frankly they have been treated like that by this country for decades.  Most of the 50,000 were drafted not volunteers, getting a draft notice was like getting a loser card, it meant you couldn't stay in school or have the influence to get out of the thing.exactly what Trump so clumsily is saying.  

crunchma_suchie
crunchma_suchie

Yet another show of smart, articulate, awesome leadership from Obama.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Obama tells VFW that diplomacy is better than chest-beating

Fercryinoutloud! Obama has man b00bs, so what else COULD he say?

schnirt 

honested
honested

@kayaker71 @FIGMO2 

Luckily, this isn't one of those times.

Maybe if we had fewer youth who viewed wasting their life in the military as an option, our Elected Leaders would face their responsibilities to keep full international relations functioning at all times.

anony123
anony123

@honested @kayaker71 @FIGMO2 The video games teach young warriors valuable murder techniques. Its the american way. We give the poor kids these games for free. Much better for morale to have pre brainwashed kids who do not question hard things like ethics. Killem all.

kayaker71
kayaker71

All of you liberals should be glad that those evil, volunteer active duty military are around to save your sorry arses.  Hell, they might even pray to some God to help them survive. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@kayaker71

those evil, volunteer active duty military are around to save your sorry arses

Kayaker, three words:

Memory

Care

Facility

Will you at least ask your loved ones to look into it?

honested
honested

@kayaker71 

For those involved in WWII, thank you very much.

Everything since then is just so much hot air and, well, chest beating!!

anony123
anony123

@kayaker71 Because prayer works for everything so well. I am so glad the baby killers are working for God. Sweet. What a country. 

anony123
anony123

@consumedconsumer @kayaker71 What? Less volunteers? The military industrial complex sponsor most politicians. They are the biggest givers around. You do not expect the volunteers to pay for their own demise, do you? This is why vets receive everything for free. We certainly do not want them paying taxes. 

Peachs
Peachs

@honested @kayaker71 an immature nation watching too many movies.  They get over there and see it is not a movie, I think a huge amount of the mental illness is the bs they have been fed from people safe in this country and the reality.  

GaBlue
GaBlue

DownInAlbany 36 minutes ago

@alexander2 @GaBlue It's just their tribute to the sanctity of life.

_________________


Baloney. This thread is about war and whether or not send our soldiers to die and kill people we never met. (I'm agin' it.)  YOU inserted your ABORTION LINK, and you want to act all offended? Cracker, please...

kayaker71
kayaker71

One of the big problems in dealing with present day terrorism is their lack of fear of most anything.  We have been and continue to be the greatest military power on earth.  No one comes close to us in this arena.  So why would an upstart, less than 100K force of lunatics with Allah on their side, proceed to make great gains in enslaving vast parts of two countries in the ME.  They do it because they can.  Virtually no one stands in the way.  And as far as them fearing the greatest military power on earth?  They do it because they know that this limp d*ck president in the WH will do nothing to stop them. 

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@kayaker71 we are great at fighting other nation's armies. we are not so great at fighting insurgencies or terrorists groups. but then using a hammer to kill a fly - that's only buzzing around you because you're in its area or messing with it - isn't the best use of resources now is it?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@kayaker71

less than 100K force of lunatics with Allah on their side

Refresh my memory--how many dudes did it take to blow up the Marine barracks and prompt Brave Sir Ronald Reagan to bravely run away from Lebanon?

anony123
anony123

@kayaker71 Get over there and fight with those people in their country.  I am not sending a single dime of my tax payer money making your kids into mentally disabled heroes. They win because their people know they are right about the great imperialists. Better yet, just shoot yourself and save us the work of having to listen to you blather on about your hatred of black people. Obama is a total winner. You are a total loser! 

juvenal
juvenal

drones folks, attacked Libya, all of area in chaos.....good luck , oblahma....... 

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

We could always rent out volunteer troops to people like Sheldon Adelson and let them go fight his war.  US Hessians.  Republicans in the military might really go for that arrangement.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@DownInAlbany @Numbers_R_Us Not surprising that you lack basic reading comprehension skills.  Of course if you want to give me a tax cut to fund sending you overseas to fight for me and the one percenters, ok.

anony123
anony123

@Numbers_R_Us As long as Us Taxpayers foot the bill. Who cares why. Just kill. Kill. Kill.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

With ISIS dealing in a position of strength


They don't even have a form of currency. They have no position of strength. 


The only strength they have is in causing fear. Which Republicans seem to be in good supply of. 

kayaker71
kayaker71

@Hedley_Lammar The only strength they have is in causing fear.  Damned if it doesn't seem to be working, Hedley. 

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

Honk honk, Jay's Clowns are out in force today. Oops every day!!!

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

Doesn't matter, you responded.. Honk honk

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@Bulls_3y3 i'll respond all day long. it's what the comments section is for. it seems to have a pavlov effect on you.

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

Funny, how they answer on demand. Just like a dog whistle... Honk honk

fiftythreepercenter
fiftythreepercenter

Hey everybody, Jay's got another R's bad post up.  Hurry on over and bash R's some more so you don't have to think about being stuck with Hillary!!

kayaker71
kayaker71

Negotiation with a supposed enemy is the civilized thing to do.  Avoidance of armed conflict should be at the top of the list.  I have put back together too many of those who were not so fortunate in combat.  A determined enemy is a real challenge.  The VC in Vietnam was such an enemy and we essentially lost to them.  ISIS is also a determined enemy.  Will we lose to them as well?  Is negotiation with them possible and if so, what do we negotiate?  Demanding that they give back the territory they have taken?  That shouldn't go over so well.  And when a side is winning, they are much less willing to come to the table.  Why should they?  So, I say again, where would you go from here liberals?  An honest, challenging pragmatic question.  Pony up. 

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@kayaker71 Pony up? Seriously . . . get a grip.


The Arabs in the region need to take out ISIS. The Arabs created it. We've sold them enough firepower. We'll probably still provide intelligence. They can do the heavy lifting . . . or not. If they do nothing, oh well . . . I'm sure ISIS will still sell us and the Chinese oil. What else they got?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@kayaker71 Demanding that they give back the territory they have taken? 


Considering they cant even provide basic services like clean water and sanitation it wont be long before that happens anyway


There are already widespread reports of disease etc in ISIS territory. 


There is MUCH MUCH more to running a state than running around the desert with AK's

Recon2/3
Recon2/3

@kayaker71 

" we essentially lost to them."

Technically you could say so, however, operationally we did not.

anony123
anony123

@kayaker71 I got it! Send in Israeli troops! They should be wiling to fight ISIS. Its their back yard. But.. Wait.. What is that I hear??? Squealing and Whining from the Republican Pigs. Oh no, no, no we cannot expect Israel or any other country to take care of their own security in their own regions. We have to be winners. We have to storm the desert and turn little kids into burnt toast. Because... Because... What would Jesus do.. Well he would send his kids to die. He would do it for heroics. He never was about losing. He was about killing everyone who even looked at him wrong. Murder everyone on the other team. Its a game. Losers do not murder everyone. Yeah. Ok. Sounds like a plan. We send all of our people to die fighting other peoples enemies. Then we really do have real enemies and it keeps growing, like the war profits and the national debt and the populations; exponentially. Death on steroids. Smashing skulls for Merica. The dream. The glory. Totally sustainable. Fun. Fun. Fun.