Last year, when he was running for President Barack Obama described Afghanistan as the “good war.” He promised to see this war through to the end. Over a month ago General Stanley McChrystal asked for additional troops to get the job done. The President sat on his hand-picked General’s recommendation for three weeks until it leaked out. Now he says he needs to think about what to do (don’t forget the POTUS fired the last General for requesting more troops).
What has the President been doing since word leaked out? Lets see, he took the opportunity to experience the joy of becoming the first US President to run a UN Security Council Meeting. He took the time to lower the prestige of the Presidency by trashing Glenn Beck on the White House website, and tomorrow he runs off to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and lower the prestige of the office even further, with a pitch to give get his Chicago buddies the Olympics, then its back home to try and shove a radical change of the health care system down the throats of the American people who would rather see him concentrate on lowering the deficit and trying to win in Afghanistan.
The President is trying to balance the fact that his progressive supporters want to cut and run in Afghanistan and the protecting America from the terrorist threat. So Obama avoids the problem and goes “small picture” focusing on the Olympics and Glenn Beck and sits on the General’s . Problem is that while Obama is doing everything in his power to avoid making a decision the war in Afghanistan is going to hell in a handbasket. Instead of being a leader, Barack Obama is doing what he did in the Illinois legislature..voting present:
By KARL ROVE
So our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he has spoken with President Barack Obama only once since June.
This is a troubling revelation. Right now, our commander in chief is preparing to make one of the most important decisions of his presidency—whether to commit additional troops to win the war in Afghanistan. Being detached or incurious about what our commanders are experiencing makes it hard to craft a winning strategy.
Mr. Obama’s predecessor faced a similar situation: a war that was grinding on, pressure to withdraw troops, and conflicting advice—including from some who saw the war as unwinnable. But George W. Bush talked to generals on the ground every week or two, which gave him a window into what was happening and insights into how his commanders thought. That helped him judge their recommendations on strategy.
Mr. Obama’s hands-off approach to the war seems to fit his governing style. Over the past year, he outsourced writing the stimulus package to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, washed his hands of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to reinvestigate CIA interrogators, and hasn’t offered a detailed health-care plan.
Mr. Obama’s aloofness on the war will be a problem if the recent airing of Joe Biden’s views on Afghanistan is a tipoff that Mr. Obama will rely on his vice president’s guidance. According to reports in the New York Times and other publications, Mr. Biden supports reducing troop levels in favor of surgical attacks—mostly launched from offshore—and missile strikes against al Qaeda, especially in Pakistan.
Such an approach would almost certainly lose the war. Actionable intelligence—key to defeating an insurgency—would dry up. Tribal chieftains would cut deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Afghan government would probably collapse, and the Afghan people would have little choice but to swing their support to the Taliban. Pakistan would likely come to see us as a fair-weather friend and increasingly resist U.S. attacks against al Qaeda on its soil. American credibility would be shattered. And militant Islamists would gain a victory.
Mr. Biden has a record rare in its consistency and duration of being wrong about big national security questions.
In his first U.S. Senate campaign in 1972, he called for cutting and running from Vietnam. He later voted to cut off funding for South Vietnam and spoke out against the war. After we did withdraw, communist forces conquered South Vietnam as well as Cambodia, where Pol Pot carried out a campaign of genocide.
In the 1980s, Mr. Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach on almost every front, including funding for the Contras in Nicaragua, building missile defenses, and increasing military spending. In the 1990s, apparently willing to cede Kuwait to Saddam Hussein, he voted against the first Gulf War. Over the past decade, Mr. Biden opposed the surge that put us on the path to victory in Iraq. Instead called for a “soft partition” that would have divided Iraq into three countries.
Mr. Biden has been right about Afghanistan at least once. In 2002, he said, “Security is the basic issue in Afghanistan. Whatever it takes, we should do it. History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course.”
The responsibility for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan rests squarely with Mr. Obama. Until now, he seems to have treated the conflict as a distraction from his efforts to nationalize our health-care system. But the war is now front and center. He has been told by Gen. McChrystal that America needs more boots on the ground to win.
In the past, when Mr. Obama has moved left, he moved fast and far to the left—witness his willingness to push health-care legislation even if it only has Democratic support. But when he has played to the center—as on Afghanistan, when he decided in last year’s campaign that he needed to be tough on at least one of the wars America was engaged in—he has looked for appealing half-measures that ultimately prove unworkable.
It was easy in 2008 to criticize Mr. Bush’s war leadership. But winning a shooting war requires a commander in chief’s constant, direct and deep involvement. Mr. Obama could show he understands this if he uses his trip to Denmark this week (where he will serve as pitchman for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics) to make a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Refusing to provide all the troops and strategic support that his commanders are requesting will be to concede defeat. We’ll soon know whether Mr. Obama has the judgment and the courage to win this war.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.