Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t — that is how President Obama must feel awaiting tonight’s speech at West Point where he will announce an additional 30,000 troops will be sent to fight in Afghanistan. In one corner, he has his so-called supporters – those that voted for him thinking he was the peace-nik, anti-war President they always dreamed of. In the other corner, are his detractors – people who do not like this President and will rally against him if he doesn’t agree with the full orders of his Generals. And somewhere in between all of that mess is reality.
The hardest part for Obama will be to rationalize his decision with the far left progressive wing of his base. What started out as staunch support has began to dwindle as the progressive agenda has been slowed by the moderation of American society and representation. Now he is routinely being questioned for not being vocal enough in support of liberal ideology. It has gotten to the point where two of the most influential commentators in this wing of the political spectrum are openly critical of his decision-making. Last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann miraculously managed to see through his own smugness clouding his visual path to his teleprompter and offered a Special Comment regarding the upcoming announcement. Olby questioned the intelligence the President was receiving and told the President the only way to salvage his legacy is to “…declare victory, and get out.” The tone of his special comment was earnest and despite the decision Olbermann knows is coming, still dripped of sympathy and support for the President…
…Which is unlike the open letter offered by filmmaker Michael Moore on his website. Moore implores Obama to pull out of Afghanistan or risk losing the millions of young supporters he earned in his campaign:
Do you really want to be the new “war president”? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so.
Moore goes on to take shots at the military, our generals (generalizing that “we” all hate them) and the former administration. But don’t be mistaken by his pot-shots – the message in his letter is clear that Obama is making a decision that will forever tarnish his legacy:
Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”
As the dissent from the top of the progressive movement becomes more vocal, those beneath have followed suit. Many who have supported Obama for his earlier decisions on Gitmo and Iraq, although not yet complete, are beginning to show signs that they can not tolerate this decision. More people are coming out against the Afghan War after hearing from their like-minded commentators and as the decision becomes a reality. But the odd thing is, Obama was never against the Afghan War. He called it the “war of necessity” ever since the campaign. I dont know what these guys were listening too. Were they hoping he was lying and fooling the majority of folks that he is not soft on national security?
He will need to pacify his base by focusing his speech on the efforts to get out of the war. He will undoubtedly say that the increase in troops is a temporary measure to speed up the timetable to pull out all troops. CNN is already reporting that he will say that he wants – but can’t guarantee – troops to be out before his first term is over. Tonight’s speech will emphasize the good we need to achieve with the Afghan people, over the negative of fighting our combatants.
On the other hand, there are some on the right that are just as bothered by this decision. A month ago George Will penned a column saying troops should be off the ground. Lately, the pull back from the conservative wing focuses on Obama’s lengthy decision-making process and his disregard to completely follow the opinions of his leadership on the ground. While I understand the frustration towards Obama for not pulling the trigger sooner, I don’t believe it has led to more deaths in Afghanistan. More troops doesn’t mean less bombs in the sand. Ultimately it’s not about when he makes the decision, but how quick is the turnaround and how effective is the strategy. Also, the President is the Commander-in-Chief, not the other way around. Generals give them their info, and he is the CEO in determining the correct strategy with all effects involved.
The other complaint coming from the right is that Obama is framing the war decision not as a fight to win, but as a fight to get out of Afghanistan. Conservative blog Red State, uses this complaint and the dithering complaint in a column written today. How they frame the debate politically to the nation doesn’t matter. We all are smart enough to figure out what is going on. Execution on the ground and a victory in Afghanistan will not be deterred by how the mission is sold to the American public. Many want to know there is a plan to end the war and it should be thought out in this strategy.
Many conservatives, such as Karl Rove, have supported Obama’s strategy. Personally, I do, too. I don’t see war decisions as political ones or that they should follow any sort of ideology. There are enemies to this nation at large, and no matter how much we want peace, it doesn’t make us any more safe wishing for it to happen. I’m sure Obama didnt come to office dreaming of war, just as I think Bush wasn’t until the attacks on 9/11. I feel pretty confident, like I did with George W. Bush’s war choices that there is intelligence out there that we the public are not privy to, nor should we be. And even if I’m wrong, we vote these guys in to make tough decisions like this one – to keep us safe, so we can pay more attention to TMZ and Tiger Woods’ SUV. Politics is a result-driven business, and in 3 years this decision will likely effect the outcome of our 2012 elections. I applaud Obama for making a decision against his political allies for what he thinks is right and will support the Afghan War troop increase.