Professor Khaled Hroub’s review of Olivier Roy’s three books–The Failure of Political Islam; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah; and The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East–published in your Journal, New Global Studies (Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2009, Article 6), is interesting but leaves the reader wanting more analysis.
The Obama administration is entering a crucial phase of its existence. President Barack Obama is about to determine his new strategy governing the Afghan war. He has a lot at stake because wars have a bizarre way of making heroes and villains out of presidents and prime ministers.
As President Barack H. Obama is edging toward making up his mind about accepting, partially accepting, or not accepting General Stanley McChrystal’s advice to insert more troops in Afghanistan, I hear an abundance of metaphors flying. One metaphor was used by the candidate Obama himself during the presidential campaign, when he described starting the war in Iraq to driving a bus into ditch. That metaphor is being reprinted (recently by the New York Times). Rory Stewart, a Professor at Harvard and an opponent of the option of increasing the troops, is using the metaphor “driving off a cliff.” Steven Biddle, a Fellow at CFR, calls it “a war that is worth waging, but only barely.” John Nagle, who built his reputation by being one of General David Petraeus’ assistants, and a person whose doctoral dissertation was on counterinsurgency (and a very good read), calls the war in Afghanistan “a better war.” The debate within the Principals Committee in the White House is reported to be waging along the lines of COIN or counterterrorism.
Major crises of each generation create heroes and villains related to them. This is true for all nations. One of the recent trends inside the United States, when facing the crisis du jour, is to examine how leaders who faced similar crises in the past behaved; what mistakes they made, and why they made those mistakes; why they did not take the advice of those who, in the hindsight of twenty-twenty, were proven right. These tormented questions are glaring in the face of President Barack H. Obama, a man who reminds many of President John F. Kennedy. Both of them share youth, intelligence, and a capacity to be highly articulate and are regarded as visionaries. They both were served by the “best and the brightest” of their respective generations. Still, the American involvement in Vietnam emerged as an archetypal example of how the best and the brightest can fail.
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