Michael Steele is in hot water again, but for the first time ever, I think we may have found political common ground. Last week, Steele made controversial remarks by saying, “This is a war of Obama’s choosing” and “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” Immediately, most of the Right jumped up to decry Steele’s breaking of rank with the Republican Party. While many are calling for his resignation, Steele’s outspokenness has made the question of war and public opinion resurface in the American media. The War in Afghanistan has quietly slipped out of the media’s topics and from the American public’s consciousness. While Steele has been wrong on many statements his comments leave me believing the adage, “even a broken clock is right two times a day.”
Michael Steele has been the darling of the Right in recent years and was tapped to chair the Republican National Committee. Steele was hired to change the image of the Republicans from a stereotypical rich White men to a more multicultural Party where all were welcomed. He began this campaign by saying he’d reach out to the Hip-Hop community and one-armed midgets, if necessary. Yes, you read that correctly, one armed midgets. His use of slang and references to being “from the streets” have failed to move masses of Black people to consider Republicans as a more viable political option.
Since his appointment, Steele has been making off color remarks, spending more than he’s fundraised, approved reimbursements to fetish adult clubs, yet remained in relatively good standing with Republicans. Only when he stopped towing the Republican Party line of support for war did he fall into bad favor. Calls for his resignation came from the masses on the Right. While shortsighted analyses of political affairs are common in politics, they are apparently only appropriate when they tow the line, not expose a rift within a Party.
Steele’s suggestion that this is Obama’s war should rub the public as wrong, to an extent. Somehow, Steele must have forgotten what George W. Bush started. We must not forget that the war continues to be backed strongly by the Left and the Right and that Barack Obama chose to increase the number of troops. Despite Steele’s selective amnesia, the questions that he raises around the beginning of the war and support of its subsequent growth are timely given that the war in Afghanistan continues to rage on with little attention.
Just last month, the War in Afghanistan became the longest war in American history. If Obama is not going to be pinned with the responsibility of the War in Afghanistan, he must change his approach. Also, we must ask, “Why are we in this war?” and “What will it take for the war to end?” Political allegiances often beckon us to support military actions for fear of being labeled unpatriotic or being soft on terrorism.
However, engaging in and supporting unjust and never ending wars sounds more dangerous to the United States and its people than most forms of terrorism. In the midst of a crumbled economy, Steele’s ruminations should make us rethink who we follow or align with and make us all check our ethics at their core. Somehow we’ve landed in a political environment where both Democrats and Republicans have found ways to rationalize this ill-fated war as acceptable and central to their party’s agenda. In his own convoluted way, Steele has opened the door for patriotic dissent and questioning war, which are finally ideas where he and I can find common ground.
R. L’Heureux Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. His research concentrates on issues of educational inequality, the role of race in contemporary society, and mental health well-being.