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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Obama Rescued From a Nonexistent Meme

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Apr 13, 2009

Michael Shear of The Washington Post assesses that the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from the Somali pirates — a commenter points to this apt cartoon about the discrepancy between the pirates’ aims and the way they’ve been treated as a joke  — is an “early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.” That seems to be the early conventional wisdom. But what’s its utility? Shear:

Nonetheless, it may help to quell criticism leveled at Obama that he came to office as a Democratic antiwar candidate who could prove unwilling or unable to harness military might when necessary.

And that’s a meme that just … doesn’t exist beyond some of the more fevered conservative imaginations. And not even that many fevered conservative imaginations!

Since President Obama came to office, he announced the deployment of 17,000 new troops to Afghanistan; expanded the scope of U.S. strategy in that war to include Pakistan; and then announced an expansive recommitment to both countries. His CIA director unequivocally announced, in public, that drone strikes are going to continue in Pakistan. He’s winding down the Iraq war in a way that has the support from the commanding general. Obama is, accordingly, being accused by some of being a warmonger.

(And let’s not forget that Obama chose the risky option of parachuting the SEAL team into the theater and having them work their ninja skills on the pirates to rescue Phillips. That suggests someone with not just a comfort level with using force, but an ability to distinguish between wise and unwise applications of it.)

It’s a stale trope of the media that a president who opposed the Iraq war is a rigid antiwar ideologue, but one unlikely to die from lack of evidence. “I don’t oppose to all wars,” Obama famously told a 2002 rally against invading Iraq. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war.” Fancy that.

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Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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