New York Times reporter Peter Baker has a piece today (7/16/13) about Barack Obama and Dwight Eisenhower that presents a somewhat confusing picture of both.
The article is about how Obama wields power–or, in the eyes of some critics, fails to take advantage of the “bully pulpit.”
The real point of the piece is to draw a parallel to Dwight Eisenhower’s “hidden hand” approach. According to an author of an Eisenhower book, Baker writes, ” Mr. Obama was like the former president in avoiding major international conflict, relying more on covert action and letting Congress take the lead in legislation.”
Just as Eisenhower, the 34th president, pulled troops out of Korea and avoided other military adventures, Mr. Obama has pulled out of Iraq, is leaving Afghanistan, has limited intervention in Libya largely to airstrikes and has resisted being drawn directly into the civil war in Syria.
Let’s try a rewrite–especially on the Obama years.
Obama withdrew troops from Iraq on the schedule inherited from Bush. His administration wanted to keep some troops there, but the Iraqi government would not allow it.
To say that Obama “is leaving Afghanistan” ignores the fact that he massively escalated the Afghan War, sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the country–essentially tripling the size of the U.S. military in the first 2 years of his term.
To say that Obama “limited intervention in Libya largely to airstrikes” is an odd way to describe what was a rather extensive bombing campaign in violation of the War Powers Act.
Baker does note that the White House has decided to formally begin arming the Syrian rebels–it is somewhat unclear how and/or when that will happen–and the CIA has reportedly been coordinating arms shipments into the country.
And, of course, one has to factor in ongoing drone wars in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is possible that these do not count as ” military adventures, ” but I think you’d have hard time explaining that to anyone in those countries.
As for Eisenhower, when the Times refers vaguely to “covert operations” during his term, one might want to spell out that the CIA was instrumental in the overthrew of governments in Iran, Guatemala and Congo, and that the CIA was deeply involved in supporting anti-government rebels in Indonesia fighting the Sukarno government–including dropping supplies to the rebels. His hands may have been “hidden,” but there’s no reason to not let the record speak for itself 50 years later.