Blaise Pascal contributed to the inventions of mechanical calculators and the concepts of using pressure to generate power for machines. He built his own version of vacuum pumps and contributed to Nevada’s gaming industry by inventing the roulette wheel. He gave up his study of science for the pursuit of a mystical life, philosophy and theology. He lived less than 40 years but made his mark on academics, science and religion.
When asked how the pragmatism of science could prove the philosophy of religion, his answer was, “It couldn’t.” He said we all have the human right to believe in any philosophical theory , even though it could never be proven. And that’s about the way this year’s presidential election is shaping up. We all want to believe in our favorite candidate, but we will never see the proof of their campaign rhetoric.
A good example of believing in false campaign promises was during the presidential race in 1928. The Republicans bragged that if Herbert Hoover was elected, there would be “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” It sounded good and the majority believed him. Hoover defeated Alfred Smith, the first Roman Catholic to run for the White House bedroom. It turned out the only chickens left to eat were in the pot at the soup lines. In 1929, seven months after Hoover was elected, the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression. So much for believing in Republican promises.
Sen. Barack Obama also has made a few campaign promises. Currently, the Democratic candidate is certainly being presumptive. He is acting presidential and is in the midst of demonstrating his ability to deal with foreign policymakers in Germany, Israel, Jordan, France, Great Britain and the Middle East. The main topics are nuclear non-proliferation, energy security, combating terrorism, climate change and troop withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan – you know, all the things closest to George W. Bush’s heart. Obama will probably have more success in a week than George had in seven years.
Sen. John McCain told Obama to go to Iraq months ago. Now he is criticizing the trip. McCain said Obama should set his withdrawal goals in Iraq after he sees first-hand what is going on. Instead, he is saying he will withdraw troops within 18 months before he even goes to the Middle East.
More criticism came from McCain’s foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann. He said, “Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders.”
Scheunemann added that “McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground,” not on a set “general time horizon” proposed by both Bush and Obama, although Bush was opposed to a time horizon until Obama announced his trip to Iraq. I wonder why?
But McCain’s real measurement for troop withdrawal is pretentious honor and a false victory. McCain’s spokesman said, “Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no great concern to Barack Obama.”
So what is an American victory? Is victory killing every Muslim who owns a gun? Is honor staying in Iraq for McCain’s proposed 100-year occupation? Or is it a victory with honor to give Iraq back to its own people and leave our outpost to rot and burn in the desert sun?
The Iraqi prime minister al-Maliki agreed with Obama. He said U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible. He called Obama’s suggestion of a 16-month target as “the right time frame for withdrawal.”
Obama seems to be picking up international support for his presidency from most of our allies. But can he deliver what he promises? Pragmatically as voters, we do want to believe he can make the changes that will free us from Iraq. But can he prove it? Or will his rhetoric come home to roost in the same pot as the leftover chickens of 1928?
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.