Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – 7.9.10

Some thoughts as this second decade of the twenty first century careens down uncharted pathways and byways:

Since he became Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele has been unfailing in his efforts to say the wrong thing at the wrong time whenever possible. Who can ever forget his references to “bling” and “fried chicken and potato salad” as key elements of his strategy to target black voters? And then there are his recent comments on Afghanistan.
He referred to the war as “Obama’s war” and technically he was wrong. The war was begun by President George W. Bush in response to the 9/11 attacks. But in reality Michael Steele was right. By committing close to 100,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and supporting a strategy that is a hybrid of counterinsurgency campaigns, counterterrorism campaigns and nation building, President Obama has made it “his” war. The Democratic Party leadership throughout the country leaped on the technical error in the process ignoring the fact that the President has had every opportunity since his inauguration to reconfigure the counterterrorism strategy of this country so that Americans might actually feel safer. But multibillion dollar excursions into Kandahar province have not deterred Underwear Bombers and Times Square Bombers and Fort Hood massacres, and all the while billions of these multibillions seem to find their way into the every yawning pockets and bank accounts of President Karzai, his brother and their cohorts.
I might add that it really is not helpful for the Democratic Party to be “technically correct” while American soldiers are dying virtually daily. It is cold comfort to the families of the men and women who have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan to know that “technically” the war is not President Obama but that of President George W. Bush.
But on the larger issue, the prospect for American military success in Afghanistan, Michael Steele is…… (How can I say it?)……correct. He correctly pointed out that no invading force has conquered Afghanistan for the past 1000 years. Actually he could have added Alexander the Great, 1000 years earlier, to the British Empire and the Soviet Union, as would be conquerors that left the bleached bones of their forces on the cruel and unforgiving plains and valleys of Afghanistan.
What is supposed to be different this time? According to President Obama the goal of America is not to conquer Afghanistan. Then what? Pacify? Good luck with that. Eliminate safe havens for terrorists? The planet and the internet are now safe havens for terrorists. Nation building? Good luck with that as President Karzai pads his bank account and is probably already engaged a broker to find him a nice pied a terre on the Champs Elysee.
Michael Steele was right to question the viability of the Obama strategy in Afghanistan, just as he would have been right to question the viability of the Bush strategy in Iraq, but that’s another story. And in the meantime he has had his flesh rhetorically flailed by Republicans and Democrats for pointing out the obvious. When it comes to Afghanistan, the American military emperor has no clothes – and no way out.

LeBron James is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and joining the Miami Heat to play basketball with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and to win the championship that has eluded him in his first seven years in the National Basketball Association. That is the news of the day.
I should note that the attention being paid to the entire King James Chronicle is justifiably criticized as irrelevant given the larger issues of the day. But that misses the point. Sports are a diversion. And diversion are never that serious – hence the term “diversion”.
In sticking a toe into this pool of ultimate irrelevancy, I would also note that as a sports fan I am truly disappointed to see LeBron James leave Cleveland this way. He is the self-anointed “King James” yet he has never won a championship, the true and final validation of greatness in sports. Rather than working to become a better player and a tougher competitor, he left to play with a team that he believes is more talented. Rather than work with his teammates and management to make his team better, he has moved to another team that promises to be better – on paper.
Two comments – first, at the risk of sounding like a true old timer, I cannot imagine Michael Jordan (who had not won a championship after his first seven years as a professional) leaving Chicago to find a team (Detroit? Boston? Los Angeles?) that was better and that would enable him to get a championship ring. The same is certainly true for Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. All of them believed in themselves and had that special superstar ego that drove them to become winners without hitching a ride on some other bandwagon.
Second – I absolutely predict that the Miami Heat will not win the 2011 NBA championship. Basketball is still a team game and there are a number of teams (Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles come to mind) that are better than the presumed JamesBoshWade greatness before which we are supposed to genuflect. LeBron James will learn that it’s not easy being the King.
Have a great weekend!