Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Obama's Afghan decision took Presidential courage in the face of feckless left-wing and right-wing opposition
President Obama addresses the Cadet Corps and the nation at West Point
President Obama has made the right decision to commit 30,000 more Americans troops to the fight in Afghanistan -- on top of the 20,000 additional troops he approved early this year -- to "finish the job" of defeating al Qaeda and its essential ally, Mullah Omar's Taliban. Obama said last year as a candidate that this is the "necessary war" and that he would finish it. He said it again in the spring. He said it again last night at West Point. With the two troop increases, Obama is more than doubling the number of U.S. combat brigades engaged in this fight -- from three to eight. He is also ramping up a more aggressive U.S. strategy to deal with the al Qaeda-Taliban sanctuaries inside the Pakistani tribal areas, where he has already greatly stepped up the tempo of CIA-led drone missile attacks. It's hard to see what else Obama needs to do to demonstrate that he takes his Presidential responsibility for national security seriously.
It was also a courageous decision in light of the certain attacks it would draw -- and has quickly drawn -- from both the deeply unserious pacifistic left wing of the his own party and the comically aggressive right wing of the GOP.
Interestingly, a good deal of the barbs from both sides revolved around Obama's setting out a flexible 18-month time frame for the Afghan surge. Senate Democratic dove, Russ Feingold, found this wanting because it was not a strict deadline for withdrawal: ”I do not support the president’s decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. While I appreciate that the president made clear we won’t be in Afghanistan forever, I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there." Meanwhile, Senate Republican hawk, John McCain, undermined his standing as a national security guru by immediately leading a GOP attack on Obama over the time frame without even a feeble effort at demonstrating bipartisan unity behind a President making a hard choice to send young men and women to war: “Then it makes no sense for him to announce the date,” Mr. McCain retorted. In short, he said, “that gives the wrong impression to our friends, it’s the wrong impression to give our enemies.”
Beyond Capitol Hill, the attacks were far more intense -- and almost stupefyingly simplistic and irresponsible. MoveOn.org is already pushing a petition to Congress to set a binding deadline for a U.S. withdrawal. Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" right after Obama's speech, radical activist Michael Moore called the U.S. presence in Afghanistan "insane" and claimed, in effect, that "there is no al Qaeda in Afghanistan." On the right, columnist Ralph Peters would win if there was a prize for the most hysterical nonsense for writing that Obama's 18-month time frame was a " presidential declaration of surrender." It's a mystery to me how or why Peters, a former Army officer, thinks that adding the firepower of five Army and Marine combat brigades since last spring won't have any effect on the Taliban, while Obama's setting a target date to begin shifting security responsibility to the Afghans will lead to a U.S. defeat.
Obama's formulation is straightforward, clear and compelling: This is a fight we did not ask for but must win for our own safety and security. It has gone on for a long time because we did not apply the necessary resources to it. We're going to do that now. The Afghans and others must do their parts as well. It won't take forever, and as President, I won't let it.
I find it hard to take issue with any of that. Americans of every political persuasion should back the President. There will be more than enough time to find fault if he fails.
Any thoughts? Post a comment.