A One-Term President?: The Choice

The American people now oppose the war, and it is folly to keep up a war without support back home. We will hear predictions of dire consequences if we don’t carry out a commitment, and don’t yield to demands of the military to expand forces. We heard that for years about Vietnam. But when we did withdraw, the consequences were not as fatal as those we incurred during the years that saw the deaths of over 50,000 of our soldiers and many more Vietnamese. Some leader has to break the spell before costs mount further while our wars are passed from president to president. Among other things, this will give our military a needed chance to repair the wear and tear on men and equipment that the overstretched regular services and the National Guard have suffered, and to make them ready for other challenges.

It is unlikely that we will soon have another president with the moral and rhetorical force to talk us out of a foolish commitment that cannot be sustained without shame and defeat. If it costs him his presidency, what other achievement can match it?

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would rather be a one-term president than give up on his goals. Here is a goal no other president we can imagine would have a possibility of reaching. Presidents who just kick the can down the road are easy to come by. Lost lives and limbs are not.

Garry Wills | NY Review of Books