Afghan War: Give Me A Break

doug_thompsonBy Doug Thompson

I don’t believe for a minute that 30,000 more troops with a loudly ticking clock hanging over their deployment will accomplish anything lasting in Afghanistan.

Come on. Why didn’t President Obama’s administration just announce the real strategy? That would be this: We’re deploying enough troops to keep the lid on things until we can start the pullout right before the next presidential election.

I wrote in my last column on this war that the politically unpopular recommendation of the commanding U.S. general in Afghanistan must be right, or the administration wouldn’t be dragging things out this long. Well, folks, here we are three weeks after I wrote that. What have we got? The recommendation that the U.S. general commanding in Afghanistan made back in August. We have gained absolutely nothing from a delay of three months.

As a columnist who quotes Carl von Clausewitz, I know war is just politics by other means, but this is ridiculous. Where’s the “other means” part? Oh yeah. I forgot. People get killed doing this.

People are sending family members overseas into combat and possible injury or death. It is immoral to do that and to dither about doing it for three months solely to save your administration a few points in your Gallup job performance rating.

Go in and do what it takes as long as it takes or get out. Either way would be fine with me. I’ve declared my willingness to pay a war tax on gasoline, for instance. Win it or go home.

After eight years of this, it appears we aren’t going to have a new surge of political will. Fine. Let’s get out then.

That’s the principle of the thing. Now let’s look at the politics.

About three out of every five Americans still support the original 2001 decision to go to war in Afghanistan, according to polls. However, confidence in the president’s leadership in the war is falling fast.

The president had a 56-percent job approval rating for his handling of the war in Afghanistan in July, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll. The same polling organization asked the same question in November. It showed 35 percent support for Obama’s handling of the war as commander in chief — a 21-point drop in four months.

A CNN/Research Opinion Corp. poll with 1,041 responses and a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent brought up the war.

According to that poll, 62 percent of those asked for support in sending the additional troops. Apparently, they think it is the right thing to do. They don’t appear confident it will work. Sixty-one percent of those polled do not believe conditions in Afghanistan will improve enough to allow withdrawals to begin in 2011. Also, 57 percent believe the most likely outcome of the war in Afghanistan is stalemate.

Finally, 58 percent of those responding did not watch or listen to any part of the president’s recent speech on the war. Of those who did, 50 percent said the speech made no difference to them.

As usual, Mark Blumenthal of got the right insight. He quoted others making the same point in his article about the speech. In Congress, the Democrats are not happy about the surge and the Republicans are not happy about the timetable for a pullout. There is no rallying around the president by our representatives, giving the president very little boost for his policies.

He doesn’t deserve any.

Categories: Legacy Archive