Sen. Barack Obama represents the best hope we have of ending the disastrous war in Iraq. One can argue that in addition to his charisma, it was his public opposition to the war before it started that helped him to win the nomination over Hillary Clinton. Like all the other final candidates, she was in favor of the war before she was against it " because being against it in the hyper-patriotic aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, was judged to be political suicide.
Since we value character and judgment so highly, we ought to admit that real character and real judgment involve doing what is right, even when it is unpopular. Early, public opposition to the war in Iraq was extremely unpopular and brought with it the predictable charges that opponents of the war were unpatriotic or naive about terrorism. In the end, all it served to prove was that they were right.
Obama has consistently told the truth about the Iraq war: that it was born in deception, strategically bungled and failed in its stated objective " to reduce terrorism. Those who claimed that it was really about oil and permanent military bases in the Middle East were absolutely, indisputably correct. Iraq has now been made safe for no-bid U.S. oil contracts, and John McCain favors a military presence in Iraq that could last 100 years.
Over the next several months, McCain's message will be simple: The surge is working and "victory" in Iraq is possible. What's more, since Republicans have lately proven themselves to be masters of the politics of fear, we will be told that "cutting and running" in Iraq, or trusting such a volatile situation to an inexperienced senator from Illinois, is a risk we cannot take. Only someone who has been a POW and, when asked about Iran, showed great maturity by singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway "¦ " to the tune of The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann," should be given the job of resolving this costly and misbegotten war. As for experience and knowledge, McCain has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.
Obama knows exactly what the surge was meant to do, and what it has really accomplished. Violence is down in Baghdad and up in Afghanistan. As the foreign occupiers of a people and a culture that we neither understand nor value, we have done nothing to improve the political situation in Iraq, and we are now losing Afghanistan. Every "surge" pushes terrorists out of one area and into another. The real problem remains: Our occupation of Iraq, our blind support of Israel, our failure to move forward on a Palestinian state and our refusal to talk to our enemies have made the world less safe, and brought the reputation of the United States to a new low.
The strain on the all-voluntary Army is now unsustainable, and it was Obama who warned us, correctly, that this misadventure would create "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences." If taking chances in service to the truth is a measure of character, then the choice this fall is easy. Supporting the troops means ending the war; loving America means restoring her lost reputation.
Obama knows this will be difficult and dangerous, but he has committed to a phased withdrawal and no permanent military bases in Iraq. He knows that Iraq will not take political or military responsibility for itself until we say we are going home and mean it. And if America is to be a truly great nation, we must address the humanitarian crisis we have created and join an international coalition to help rebuild a nation we have largely destroyed.
On this issue, it is hard to imagine an easier choice " or a more patriotic one. Elect Obama and support the troops by bringing them home.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.