2012 issues: War and peace

Yeah, I know — President Obama’s record on war, peace and human rights is disappointing. Maybe appalling. Our prison in Guantanamo is still open. We are killing people, including lots of civilians, by remote control, with a continuously expanding drone war. The former constitutional law professor has expanded the Patriot Act and other legal inroads on civil liberties, and has gone after whistleblowers in government.

Despite this disappointing, even appalling, record, I will vote for him on November 6. Why?

Two reasons.

First — I believe Romney would be worse. He’s clueless on some aspects of foreign policy (such as Iran, Syria and Middle East geography), and committed to pouring more money into the U.S. military, building more ships and planes, and preparing for more wars. Would he actually go to war in Iran? Or Syria? Or any of a dozen other hot spots? There’s really no way to know, but there’s nothing to indicate he has an inclination to avoid war.

No, there’s no way to construe a vote for Romney as a peace vote. That would be like casting a “peace vote” for Nixon in 1968.

Even if he hasn’t done so yet, Obama still says he wants to close Guantanamo, and probably would have done so in his first year, except that Congress blocked him. He still promises to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, and he did (mostly) bring them home from Iraq.

Second — President Obama has accomplished some really important things, despite the stranglehold of Republican cloture votes in the Senate for all four years and a Republican majority in the House during the second half of his term. For starters, he signed the biggest reform in health care since the passage of Medicare in 1965. It’s not the single-payer, universal health care that I want to see, but it is a huge step forward.

That’s one example. Then there’s the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, reform of the college loan system, an end to don’t-ask-don’t-tell, and, of course, the whole agonizingly-slow-but-sure turn-around of the economy from damn-near-depression to recovery.

So, yeah — Obama’s war/peace/civil liberties record is somewhere south of disappointing, but I’m going to vote for him. To my progressive friends who think this is wrong, I say that any vote (or failure to vote) that would put Romney in the White House would be irresponsible and potentially disastrous.

No matter how disappointing the president’s war and peace record is, he has done a lot of good and will do more in a second term. The right response, IMHO, is to vote for him, support the good policies, and push him to get out of the war zones, ground the drones and start protecting civil liberties in his second term.

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