Joe Manchin's recent denunciation of the Afghanistan War demonstrates the depth of frustration with that conflict among Democrats. And he places his finger on precisely the area which is at the root when he states, "It is time to focus on rebuilding American, not on rebuilding Afghanistan." The cost and the loss is simply too much and the burden is unevenly distributed. That Manchin says that he cannot "look West Virginians in the eye" and say they must do without vital services and support an unwinnable war is simply stating the obvious.
Well obvious to most with the exception of John McCain and Lindsay Graham. These two advocates of persistent interventionism have been inured to the cost and proportion of their arguments. If there has not been a Muslim state they have not wanted to invade, it is an oversight. Of course, McCain swiftly denounced Manchin by enunciating his usual doom and gloom scenario if the wars are not escalated.
Take Libya for example: These two worthies, McCain and Graham, desire "boots on the ground" to overthrow Gadhafi. The operation was marred from the start by bad intelligence and fanciful assumptions. NATO primarily led, in this instance by the United Kingdom and France, the operation has been lackluster from the start. President Barack Obama, who could have easily left the war alone, jumped in to save a rebel band whose primary beliefs are not even known. Give most Republicans and conservatives some credit when they denounced the Libyan adventure in Congress. For once Obama should ignore the entreaties of the reflex interventionist. He should do what Dwight Eisenhower did at Suez in 1956, pull the plug on the ill-fated operation.
But outside of the foreign policy aspects, Manchin was correct in pointing out the folly of Democrats trying to make their mark primarily on foreign policy. True enough Obama did not pledge to pull out of Afghanistan, indeed he promised a more vigorous effort in 2008. However, it is doubtful that many of his supporters saw that as a key consideration for voting for him. As Woodrow Wilson remarked in 1913, if his mark was left primarily on war and diplomacy, it would be an "irony of history." Certainly if the killing of Osama is Obama's defining achievement, it would be no less "ironic" than Wilson's.
Obama was elected to place the United States' house in order. Instead he has pursued policies not unlike his predecessor and proved deadly dull in his attempts to inspire the country. If he was given a moniker like a prince, he would most surely be known as Obama the Unimaginative. He has been predictable all the way with his attempts to seize the middle with the sole result of emboldening and strengthening his enemies. Manchin has given Obama a blueprint for restoring his administration, and he would be smart to seize it for his own.
That blueprint is to state priorities such as preservation of Medicare and Social Security. This is difficult when wars that cost billions continually drive the treasury. With Republican refusing to raise taxes, it is better that hopeless actuations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya be left to the whim of time.
As of 2012, they are expensive luxuries, not essentials, of foreign policy. Let the McClains and Grahams explain how one fights perpetual war on the cheap. Certainly Joe Manchin honored himself and West Virginia with his remarks. No doubt Robert Byrd, a persistent critic of these conflicts, would have approved. Once again, Manchin surprised his critics and showed that he had the grasp of international issues.
This sort of boldness is rarely seen in a junior senator, and he shows that Manchin has the ability to do as Obama has not done: Fo face down the perpetual hawks and argue for American interest.