Afghanistan Political Cartoons
Everyone tells me they like it when I post my messy rough skteches – so here are a couple of new ones. Â The latest cartoon makes fun of how silly it is that Obama continues to try to coax the Republicans when the Dems and the GOP are so far apart.
I start with a messy rough sketch in hard pencil on slick paper – to discourage me from rendering in the sketch and force me to draw quickly, without worrying about mistakes. Â I shouldn’t worry about a rough sketch looking good – and this one certainly doesn’t look good. Â Here you can see that I erased, and I redrew Obama’s face on top with a darker pencil because I wanted it to look goofier and simpler than I had drawn on the first pass. Â When I make an error it is usually to draw too realistically, or to draw too much detail; I have to think hard about making things simpler and cartoonier when I draw.
Next I do the finished line art on a piece of drafting vellum in pencil. Â I draw pretty hard, so the lines are crisp and I scan the art at high contrast so it ends up looking like ink. I do the shading on Obama’s pinstripe suit by smudging the pencil with my finger. This line drawing is what most readers will see in the newspaper.
Then, for a small but growing number of newspapers who print editorial cartoons in color, and for our readers on the web, I add color in Photoshop. Â I take care to use simple, bright colors because of poor newspaper printing. Â I also make sure that my black line art is on a separate channel (the “K” channel in CMYK) so that the lines stay crisp and don’t get broken up into a halftone screen when the cartoon is reprinted. Â Many cartoonists save their cartoons in RGB format and their black lines look like an illegible mess when their cartoons are printed just a little bit out of register, as is typical with lousy newspaper printing.
With this next cartoon I wanted to give the impression that Obama had stepped into, and gotten stuck in a mess that wasn’t of his own making, and that his reaction to the mess was only to make it worse. (And gooey bubble gum is always fun to draw.)
Here again I drew over the rough sketch in hard pencil on drafting vellum and scanned the drawing at high contrast to look like ink. Lots of artists complain that they like their pencil sketches better than their finished ink drawings because they lose the spontaneous look with ink.Â The shading on his pinstripe suit is finger smudges again. All of my drawings are 11×17, which is larger than most editorial cartoonists draw. Â The black line art below is what most people see will in their newspaper.
Then I colored it in Photoshop. The pink color helps the bubble gum look more like gum.
Will Afghanistan be Barack Obama’s Vietnam? NO. It will be his… Afghanistan. And that’s trouble enough!
First, a bit of background:
The Reagan administration liked to crow about how they’d WON the cold war. Their secret weapon? Ronald Reagan had bankrupted the Soviet empire into oblivion!
I never entirely bought this argument. I thought Mikhail Gorbachev deserved equal credit. He’d seen the graffiti on the (Berlin) wall. By the time Gorby climbed to the peak of the Politburo, he knew that the Soviet Union was kaput. The Soviets barely had enough clunky, dial telephones and rabbit-eared TVs to go around, while the West was embarking on the Information Age. Gorbachev’s mission was to guide Mother Russia to a “soft landing,” where she might reform herself and join the ranks of respectable, modern nations.
But I DO believe that Reagan’s policy of bankrupting the Soviet Union was a huge help. The Pentagon upped the ante, exponentially, when it came to military spending. We engaged the Soviet Union in proxy wars around the world. We invaded tiny Grenada, just to keep the Soviets form landing on an airstrip. We threatened the Kremlin with the Big Kahuna of missile defense — the “Star Wars” program. And we poured zillions into Afghanistan, to help the Mujahideen roust the Red Army from every pile of rubble.
In short, the U.S. forced the U.S.S.R. to spend like drunken sailors to prop up their sclerotic regime. We spent like drunken sailors ourselves, but we could better afford the tab. Reagan & Co. snickered as the U.S.S.R. literally fell on its rusty swords. The mighty Red Army was humiliated in Afghanistan, driven from the unforgiving dust and rocks, hungry and unpaid, by a ragtag bunch of gnarly peasants wearing sneakers and…rags!
Now, two decades later, it looks as though much of the world is snickering at us. The Chinese. The Iranians. Many in the European Union. And, most especially, the Russians. Of course, Vladimir Putin tries to keep apoker face at all times. But I’ve detected a wry smile gracing the prime minister’s face when he practices judo. Or strips to the waist and flexes his pecs in the great Siberian outdoors.
And no wonder! We’re as knee-deep in the Big Dusty as the Soviet Union was. We’ve got a vastly superior military, of course. And we actually pay our soldiers! But we’re still stuck, and nobody knows how to win or how to get out. Honorably or otherwise. And we spend, spend, spend! Soviet history could have been instructive in this regard. British history, too.
But isn’t Afghanistan critical to the War on Terror? Isn’t Afghanistan’s security vital to our own? All true — and therein lies the conundrum. Problem is, we’re in a race for hearts and minds with the Taliban. We can build a nice road that leads to a spanking, new school house, outside Kabul. The Taliban can assemble kids in a bombed out police station, feed them a cup of lamb and rice, and call it a Madrassa.
Meanwhile, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has grown rather sick of us, and we of him. His grand, green cape is in tatters, and he might not survive a second round of voting. Abdullah Abdullah might offer a pleasant change, briefly. But we’ll tire of each other, too, in short order. Afghan citizens will continue to gripe about corruption and the lack of basic services, and we’ll wring our hands about opium trafficking and women trapped in burkas. Daily life will change at a glacial pace.
…But it DOES strike me that our Predator drones are having success tracking down and whacking senior members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And keeping the rest hunkered down. True, Pakistan gets mad whenever a drone whizzes over its border and hits a terrorist cell in Waziristan. But Pakistan has a problem with anger management, in general.
Still, the Predators keep finding their targets. Seems to be more effective, and less expensive (in blood and treasure), than full-scale warfare or nation-building in Afghanistan. It’s hard to “clear, hold and build” piles of rubble punctuated by poppy fields. Why re-enact the charge of the Light Brigade? Just maybe, in dealing with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, less can be more?
Well, enough of my yammering. Read something serious! But if you’d like to see more samples of my work, please click here.