This is Jean-Marc Illouz's lovely tribute to the D-Day veteran Irving Smolens who bent Obama's ear about war and peace one year ago this week. Jean-Marc posted it on Facebook and has kindly allowed me to republish it here.
By Jean-Marc ILLOUZ
I have recurringly thought of Irving Smolens since that day.
His was a name I had never heard of in nearly 40 years as a French war correspondent from Vietnam to the Middle East.
Among the last survivors of Utah Beach, he was Private Irving
Almost a name on a stone till that day in June 2014 during D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations at the American Cemetery in Normandy.
The old soldier insisted on approaching his Commander in Chief to deliver a short valetudinary message:
"Thank you Mr President for keeping us out of war" [re:The Daily Beast's Christopher Dickey original story below]
An echo from a soldier's soldier, I often quoted later when confronted to various Obama critics. Most were "drugstore soldiers" hailing from the Hill and howling for blood, Tea Party cartoon characters or foreign critics unaware of the extent of Congressional power in US Foreign Policy.
Others abroad were the very same that not so long ago would denounce US imperialism and now posited that Uncle Sam's magic firepower could -boom!-cure centuries old divides in their own societies.
To be sure Obama only chose to extensively resort to drones here and more sparingly to air power elsewhere. Not the John Wayne- Bush Jr kinda stuff.
Smart alecks claim "he blew it when the time was ripe to scuttle Syrian dictator Assad and wipe out his Air Force"?
Ripe? To skydive the country into some machismo state of war with Russia over Syria...and Ukraine? A US Vital interest?
Today's challenges are with Russia and China first. Not Dracula and garlic. Containing and crushing the so called Islamic State is a long term business. It will also require their cooperation. And Jihadi terror AND idéology will not be defeated "live from the Pentagon" alone.
Vision at the White House will take really deciding who's the more effective Muslim ally - Iran included - the US needs to lick ISIS in the region. And -before it engulfs Palestine - using some tough love with the Israeli right.
The President clearly understands this. And also that it's not as easy as bombing some video targets in Wadi-Dum.
So far Saudi money and Israeli influence have largely dictated or impeded US policy including this administration's. But perhaps what will remain as this two terms President's greatest merit, will be to have resisted America's natural inclination to wrap Manifest Destiny in testosterone, shoot first and think later, spill blood and billions in non vital, well lobbied "patriotic "wars from Vietnam to Iraq.
At the outset of his presidency,Obama was - as we all remember - rather embarrassed to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
As of today he has brought neither peace nor victories. Rescuing the US economy and not Ramboing around may not be Iwo Jima's stuff but survivor Irving Smolens words of thanks still ring to me as the greatest National Award a resilient President Obama could ever dream of.
ps: Irving Smolens passed away on April 11th 2015, at 90 in Melrose, Mass.RIP.
He had actively opposed both the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.