Obama: The peace president, clarified
Tom Hayden wrote in an Op-Ed Dec. 16 about the role of "determined peace activists" in ending the war in Iraq, including "one who embraced their cause and became president": Barack Obama. Hayden called Obama's opposition to the war -- which Obama, then an Illinois state senator, made clear in an announcement in October 2002 in Chicago -- a "brave stance for an ambitious politician."
Hayden went on to call Obama "the first president to campaign on a promise to end an ongoing American war." That assertion, however, is not true, and it has been corrected for the record. As a reader pointed out, Dwight D. Eisenhower campaigned in 1952 on ending the Korean War. And Richard M. Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War during his successful presidential campaign in 1968.
Hayden, however, stands by the idea that Obama has played a singular role among recent presidents. In an email, he clarified his point:
Dwight D. Eisenhower promised to end the war in Korea, it is true, but he left the Korean peninsula partitioned and more than 25,000 American troops occupying the South until the present time. Those U.S. troops are pledged to fight again if hostilities erupt between the two Koreas.
Richard M. Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War, but his "secret plan" for peace led to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, escalated the bombing of North Vietnam, and resulted in tens of thousands of more American casualties until the war was lost to North Vietnam years after Nixon took office.
By contrast, Obama pulled the last of 170,000 American troops out of Iraq on schedule this month. True, he is leaving 16,000 personnel at the huge U.S. Embassy for "defensive" purposes, but they are hardly about to initiate another war. Iraq itself may erupt in sectarian war once again, but that calamity cannot be prevented by another U.S. military occupation, only by effective diplomacy with Shiite countries like Iran, with whom we have no diplomatic relations.
Compared to Eisenhower and Nixon, Obama has ended the war he pledged to end.
Photo: President Obama greets troops as they step off a plane on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Dec. 20 during a ceremony marking the return of the United States Forces-Iraq Colors and the end of the war in Iraq. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press