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Afghanistan Trending Downward

November 11, 2009

Is America wanting to give up in Afghanistan?

The Gallup Poll that Fox News has been featuring all day, and other networks have mentioned only sotto voce, has bad news for Barack Obama. Americans have reached a new low in their job optimism. Republicans are ahead in the generic ballot. The President’s own job approval is down.

None of this should surprise anyone who has watched this administration lumbering forward with what has become its signature combination of heavy handedness and incompetence. But one finding in the poll is particularly disturbing and not just for the White House. Only 35% of Americans now support Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan, while 44% want to reduce our troop strength there. In other words, the people of this country are beginning to bail on the mission.

Why has this happened? Partly because of Obama’s interminable dithering (yes, Cheney had him pegged) on the issue of troop levels. Indecision of this kind is itself a coded message and the country seems to have heard what the President is not saying. Americans have also defaulted to pessimism about Afghanistan simply because Obama has refused to rally them to the cause. Instead of making the defense of this war a priority and drawing on some of that homogenized eloquence of his to tell us repeatedly and with conviction why we fight, he has treated Afghanistan as a sort of intriguing puzzle he has not yet solved but will let us know when he succeeds. In the vacuum Obama has created, Joe Bidenism grows like some baleful polyp among our policy options and Mikhail Gorbachev seems to be reading our mind when he tells us we will never win. Scenarios for victory are overcome by scenarios of withdrawal–the most pernicious, defeatist, cynical and possibly prophetic of them involving making a deal with “moderate” elements of the Taliban as part of an exit strategy. They’ve learned their lesson and won’t let al Qaeda spoil their good thing again, leftist think tankers whisper. These moderate Taliban will rub out the drug lords, their moral opposite number, make the country’s pack animals run on time, and carry the country back to the 17th century where it won’t bother anyone again.

In the 2008 campaign, Afghanistan was Obama’s fig leaf—the “good” war while Iraq was the bad one; the war of necessity rather than the war of corrupted choice; the ball off of which Bush had taken the nation’s eye in his mad obsession with Saddam. By woofing on Afghanistan during the electoral season, Obama acquired national security credentials and appeared to outflank McCain on military matters from the right. Talking about Afghanistan allowed him to appear to be serious about protecting this country. It was a godsend.

But now it is a nuisance. And as President, Obama has created the cracks through which Afghanistan has fallen, thus jeopardizing the American soldiers putting everything on the line there every hour of every day. Whatever the number of additional troops he finally authorizes, the President has encouraged support for the war to dwindle. As the poll numbers rise of Americans who, having heard no strong defense from the White House for our sacrifice there, see no reason to remain, the President will have a perfect justification for calling it a day and echoing George McGovern’s “Come Home, America.” If this happens, there will be a sigh of relief from his leftist allies and from the terrorists who will now be able to return to their favored work station and resume the task of putting together plots to attack the Great Satan.

  1. November 11, 2009 11:19 pm

    “Obama has created the cracks through which Afghanistan has fallen”

    I realize that I can’t go on blaming George W. forever, but to me this is the war that Bush abandoned. The situation in Afghanistan is definitely deteriorating, that much is certain. But while the GOP is gleefully pointing the finger at the man in the White House, we are distracted from the disturbing fact that the Taliban is flexing more muscle than many though them capable of both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Often forgotten by the critics is that upon entering office Obama sent 2 brigades to the country. The last of these boots had just finished being deployed when Gen. McChrystal’s troop request was made public. Then consider that at the same time Obama was having to come to grips with the fact that the Afghan government he was left with was tainted from rigging an election right on the heels of the Iranian election fiasco.

    I support Obama’s decision to postpone doubling down (McChrystal’s request almost doubles the troop levels in Afghanistan) on a country that was/is in such a precarious position. Besides, the effect of the troop increase had yet to be seen. Any student of history knows how difficult it is to ease back on troop levels once they’re deployed. Now that we know that Karzai is actually going to be the president for the next while we’ll see what Obama does. Remember, a 25-30,000 troop increase isn’t a small amount of soldiers.

    As for the popularity contest, I don’t understand why the author above puts such an emphasis on public support for the war. Our hand is in the cookie jar; it is important to do what is effective more so than what is popular. And as for these fears of defeatism, I think Obama has shown quite clearly that he is committed to Afghanistan. It has just been shown in a more sophisticated manner than brash saber rattling and tossing numbers at the problem. Historically our country has benefited from Presidents making their own decisions and not blindly listening to their generals.

    • johan berger permalink
      November 12, 2009 6:27 am

      To Dick Harvey: Historically the wont of American ledership in war is to LEAD! The present occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has now FAILED both to hook up with American patriotism – very muchy needed in these troubled times! – and to show a willingness to make DECISIONS about what to do in Afghanistan..
      IF his many advisors cannot force him to react here or there, only poll ratings after defeat on ‘
      cap and trade’ or the health issue will!

      Obama’s political fate will possibly end like that of Richard Nixon, but with a different math before the outcome=IMPEACHMENT!
      Nixon had a great track record in domestic policy, though an uncertain outcome in foreign policy.
      Obama on his part has ENDANGERED US interests in foreign policy and made a mess of BOTH the economy and other issues AT HOME!
      All polling shows a deep resentment toward the Congress(67 per cent against!) and the current VP and POTUS are seen as bumblers and laughing stocks!
      The latest incident in ‘introspection’ at Fort Hood, pace Gen. George Casey has only added fuel to the fire that will consume this ‘Administration’..
      If Democrats want sufficient time to rebound before November 2010 – unlikely! – they and the Republicans should start impeachment hearings no later than February, but Speaker Pelosi may NOT become President!

      • November 13, 2009 3:24 am

        You’re right. Nixon had a great domestic policy. Just ask Kent State. And what in the world do you mean whey you say that his foreign policy was “uncertain?” That it was uncertain that he didn’t know what to do about Vietnam? That he was uncertain whether or not he was invading Cambodia?

        As for you’re comments on Obama, I just don’t know where to begin.

        The good thing is that you’re so far removed from reality that you think he’ll be impeached by next year. So I don’t have to feel as bad as if an intelligent person took issue with what I had to say.

    • November 12, 2009 7:12 am

      which presidents who didn’t blindly listen to their generals are you speaking of??? LBJ???

      • November 13, 2009 3:28 am

        How about FDR during WW2. Or the more blatant example would be Truman during Korea when MacArthur wanted to nuke China and actually defied the President by attacking beyond the 38th Parallel.

        Or more recent history, Bush ignored retired Generals complaining about Rumsfield’s strategy in Iraq. But that was an example of when he probably should have listened.

  2. November 12, 2009 4:07 am

    Unless we develop a comprehensive South Asia strategy, the most we can hope for is a temporary peace in Afghanistan.

    What would such a strategy look like? Well, at the very least it requires some moderation of the strategic competition between India and Pakistan. Without attention to this aspect of the problem, we really are only playing around at the edges of the conflict.

    For more, there’s a good piece here:

  3. Tom permalink
    November 12, 2009 4:48 am

    Obama’s shameful cowardice must make Jane Fonda’s crowd proud! His “dithering” has already cost American lives and encouraged the enemy. Karzai’s government is as legitimate as Obama’s, probably more so, unless it is discovered that ACORN was at work in Karzai’s behalf during the recent election in Afghanistan.

  4. adheeb permalink
    November 12, 2009 5:22 am

    Unless we really ‘know’ what our objectives are we should come home. Unless our objectives are realistic, we should come home.

    If our objectives are to ‘democratize’ these people … we should come home. You can’t make a silk purse from a pig’s snout. The same is true in Iraq. The religious foundation of these people cannot support a system of justice & truth.

    On the other hand … if we want a strategic outpost in either of these countries, we can do it. Islam has always understood the ‘right of conquest’ … it was your land, now it’s ours. But let’s not pursue an empire.

    Instead let’s look at our own country and use every available and legal means to get the rot of Islam out. “Round ’em up, move ’em out”

  5. John Davidson permalink
    November 12, 2009 7:42 am

    In the past three months, we have had a lot of Congressmen and women travelling over to Afganistan advising their president and I would imagine he is as confused about what to do as we are here in our own country.

  6. Geppetto permalink
    November 12, 2009 2:12 pm

    We cannot win a war in which we do not understand or acknowledge who is the enemy. We will fail in Afghanistan and ultimately in Iraq as long as the Bush and Obama administrations and the U.S. Military continue to wring their hands and pretend that every atrocity committed in the name of Allah is the result of every known malady to man rather than the acquisition of the “holy Grail” of Islam, a world Caliphate and the total subjugation and destruction of the “unbelievers.” Consider Major Malik Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood terrorist and Obama and Army General Chief of Staff George Casey’s politically correct remarks in the aftermath; pitifully inept and disturbingly obtuse.

  7. Len Powder permalink
    November 12, 2009 6:44 pm

    America has been looking for ‘moderate’ Taliban since the administration of Jimmy Carter. The Taliban and the word ‘moderate’ are oxymorons. There are NO MODERATE TALIBAN. They are the mental figment of deluded politicians who want a rationalization for exiting Afghanistan. There are NO MODERATE JIHADISTS. On this point also, the Obama administration and its leftist sycophants, refuse to acknowledge what could not be more obvious to the rest of us who don’t suffer from delusional self-deception. Liberals and leftists visit reality only during elections. Thereafter they return to their utopian fantasy world in which make believe passes for reality. Obama’s world and its inhabitants live in the Land of Oz. We need people with their feet planted firmly on terra firma. A liberal is someone with his feet planted firmly in the sky.

    • November 13, 2009 3:31 am

      And a “conservative” is someone with his head buried in the sand.

  8. johan berger permalink
    November 13, 2009 10:11 am

    To Dick Harvey:
    The late President Nixon’s domestic record has been documented i.a. by essayist Monica Crowley in the Human Events Magazine article dated 8/8/09 and stands its ground despite your ignorance of American history!
    For a biographical rendition on Nixoniana I suggest you look up Joan Hoff’s ‘Nixon Reconsidered’ published 1994 or -95.
    Ms Hoff wrote the book when doing research on RN at Indiana State University.
    By my phrase ‘uncertain’ I was merely alluding to uncertainty as to reception among future historians and academe. Both the China Initiative and the SALT treaty were at the time provocative to the Establishment, who deigned not take seriously the co-operation of Kissinger with Nixon, the prime ‘outsider’ in US politics since the Hiss hearings of 1948..

    Since disarmament had failed during JFK and his inept bungling of Bay of Pigs AND the erection of the Berlin Wall(!) your Establishment could well do without further disturbance in their Mausoleum of Missteps..
    Thus also the reason why Ronald Reagan was so castigated during the first years of HIS presidency!

    If intelligence – a tricky faculty when not applied properly – has now been limited to your definition of it I’d rather find myself on the fringes of U.S. foreign policy debate!

    Keep coming back when your reading of recent US history shall match your assumptions on it!

    Best Wishes from
    Mr Johan Berger(NORWAY)
    (retired teacher of Americana and British cultural history)

    • November 15, 2009 1:40 am

      Well sir, you come off a lot more intelligent in the second go around. You just entirely discredited yourself in my eyes with the whole impeachment thing. How in the world would impeaching Obama improve the Dem’s position? Thats like the pundits saying that passing the healthcare reform bill is a deathnail for reps. What will be the result of appearing impotent? The republicans took the congress in 94 in a large part because the democratic congress couldn’t get anything off the ground. And though I’ll admit that dem’s aren’t looking good for 2010, the republicans are going through a pretty violent schism. Look at the republicans that took the Virginia and Jersey governorships. They aren’t your “drill baby drill” republicans.

      I actually studied cold war history in university (though its just a BA). You’re looking through rose-covered glasses if you believe that the Nixon Presidency was a success in any manner. But I’m not so partisan as to think he did nothing. I’m glad for the EPA and his diplomatic efforts in pretty much everywhere else other than southeast asia.

      And unlike most other liberals I don’t have the JFK love syndrome. My favorite president of the era is LBJ (though I realize that he made horrible foreign policy mistakes). But I think that despite RR’s supposed role in bringing down the “evil empire,” Ronald Reagan played a dangerous game with the USSR and blind luck had more to do with things than conservatives will admit. Reagan had the same kind of foresight as George W., but just had more luck.

      Now, with all that said, let me say this about the original topic: Afghanistan. You seem to support this idea that Obama is loosing points for not “reacting” when the McChrystal troop request went public. Well, I can agree that it doesn’t look good for him. My point is that we’ve been stuck over there for 8years. I think Obama is using a perfectly fine amount of restraint and control. He is deliberate. And after 8years of a gunslinger president I like deliberate.

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