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Harpers' June 2015 cover story



The June cover story is a piece by David Bromwich entitled "What Went Wrong: Assessing Obama's Legacy."

It is not quite as negative as the headline suggests. Bromwich, whose image you see here, considers Obama superior not only to his precursor, but almost certainly superior to whomever shall be his successor. There is a lot of quotable material here. I'll confine myself to just two quotes, though they will be substantial ones.

That said, there is this:

"In foreign policy, Afghanistan was the first order of business in Obama's presidency. His options must have appeared exceedingly narrow. During the campaign, he had followed a middle path on America's wars. He said that Iraq was the wrong war and that Afghanistan was the right one: Bush's error had been to take his eye off the deeper danger. By early spring of 2009, Obama knew that his judgment -- though it earned him praise from the media -- had simply been wrong. The U.S. effort in Afghanistan was a shambles, and nobody without a vested interest in the war was saying otherwise."

Nonetheless, Obama stuck with his original campaign theme, orchestrated a 'surge' in Afghanistan, with the consequence that after 6 1/2 years of Obama as President, the US military is still heavily engaged there, an engagement that is bringing us no national security gain at all.

Relatedly: there is this:

"Much of the disarray in foreign policy was inevitable once Obama resolved that his would be a 'team of rivals.' The phrase comes from the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about the Civil War cabinet headed by President Lincoln. To a suggestible reader, the team-of-rivals conceit might be taken to imply that Lincoln presided in the role of moderator; that he listened without prejudice to the radical William Seward, his secretary of state, and the conservative Montgomery Blair, his postmaster general; that he heard them debate the finer points of strategy and adjudicated between them."

But that is, as Bromwich proceeds to say, a superficial reading of Kearns' book and a terrible reading of the actual history behind it. Further, he is clearly suggesting that Obama was the suggestible reader who gave that conceit credence, and that this may be a key to the chaos of his own policy making.

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