Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Yes, Afghanistan is a colossal, inherited mess. But the statute of limitations for blaming his predecessor has tolled. It's Barack Obama's war now. As Colin Powell famously warned about Iraq, we own it.
There's no way to tell whether Obama's buildup will "finish the job." Afghanistan, after all, is the boneyard of empires. Ask Alexander the Great, the British (twice) or the Soviets.
Even in a best-case scenario, military experts believe U.S. combat troops will still be battling evildoers there long after Obama leaves office, even if reelected.
In the meantime, Obama will suffer the inevitable fallout from rising U.S. casualties, huge new war costs during a nasty recession and sniping from all quarters.
"The left will skewer him and it won't be enough for the right," a retired Army general predicted.
But as a political blueprint, Obama has managed some Clintonesque triangulation - in the short term.
By pulling some troops home in 2011, he mutes grumbling from his liberal base that thought "change you can believe in" meant no more troops for war.
At the same time, Obama undercuts Republicans eager to trash him for ignoring the advice of his generals. His plan gives the military brass most of what they wanted - thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' steady counsel - and more or less what George W. Bush would have done.
As a result, Republicans are left to grump about his alleged "dithering" and other lesser laments.
"I'm giving him credit for having the courage to do the right thing," GOP consultant Ed Rollins told the Daily News.
Obama strategists believe the commander in chief has found "a way out that makes him look strong and not weak," said an influential Democratic official.
Perhaps. Regardless, Obama has created some maneuvering room to recapture disenchanted moderates and independents who helped elect him 11 months before the 2010 midterm elections.
"He's bought himself at least a year," a Democratic elder argued, "time for the economy to recover and get past an election where Republicans can't say he's squishy on Afghanistan."
Ultimately, Obama's handlers argue he'll be credited for a tough, unpopular decision opponents bet he couldn't make. They also think his 2012 reelection - and Democrats' fate next November - won't be decided by Afghanistan.
"The economy is everything," said a liberal Democratic consultant closely allied with Obama. "If more people are back at work and feeling better about their future, he'll get some slack for Afghanistan. If the economy's still in the toilet, he won't get slack on anything."
Brief and to the Point:
If North American economy does not seem to get a boost from bailouts and the number of Fox News conservatives tend to soar...forget "Change" and let's us just say "Yes, We Can" go to War...after all, there's no worse war than war at home...