Ignoring the Real War. Fighting the War of the Words
The official war of words is on. Former Vice President Dick Cheney fired the first shot when he accused President Barack Obama of “dithering” while America’s armed forces wait for his decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan. The President’s Press Secretary didn’t waste any time responding. He accused Cheney of not paying attention to Afghanistan when he was in the White House.
Since then, pundits on both sides of the issue have joined in.
Obama backers say the President is being thoughtful and thorough.
Obama detractors say he is showing he’s indecisive and can’t govern.
But the truth is something else entirely.
The truth isn’t about Obama watching and weighing events in Afghanistan. The truth is, his administration is more closely watching and weighing political events right here at home. The truth in the Afghanistan presidential decision delay comes down to one word: politics.
It’s been nearly a year since President Obama was handed an in-depth report on Afghanistan by the Bush transition team, including recommendations on how to handle the war. In March, President Obama met with General Stanley McChrystal — the man he put in charge in Afghanistan — and declared that Afghanistan was the good war and one America would win with the extra troops he was sending there.
But after that announcement he didn’t meet with General McCrystal again, didn’t even talk with him by phone, didn’t answer his requests for more troops for a surge to win the war. It wasn’t until months later, after a report on CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” — where McChrystal admitted he had only met with the President once – that the President scheduled another meeting.
Meanwhile, the Commander of NATO forces, General David McKiernan has underscored the need for more troops or risk failure in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged the President to make a decision.
But to date there is still no answer from Obama about what he will do.
It’s not due to the President’s thoughtfulness, or thoroughness, or indecisiveness. It’s the President’s politics. He sees his poll numbers falling and doesn’t want to anger his far left support by sending more troops overseas. He sees two democratic Governors in trouble and doesn’t want to do anything that will cost them their upcoming elections. To wit, he’s gone to New Jersey to campaign for Governor Jon Corzine. And it’s clear he’s trying to help Craig Deeds who’s in trouble in Virginia, the swing state that was key to Obama’s 2008 victory. If he can stall through those gubernatorial elections – and claim the delay is because he is studying the politics in Afghanistan – his candidates may have a better chance.
But mixing politics with international affairs is dangerous.
Watching the American President delay a decision on what to do in Afghanistan – send more troops or pull out – doesn’t make NATO want to send more troops in, it emboldens the enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and – worse – it leaves our military waiting in harms way. There are nuclear weapons on the Pakistan border, the Taliban forces are gathering in Waziristan, vowing to kill Americans, and headed by a leader who was turned loose from Gitmo – as one of the less dangerous prisoners held there.
President Obama was given a full military review close to a year ago. Eight months ago he announced that Afghanistan was the right war to fight and we would fight it. These are the facts and the facts are the message to the world.
Yet the only message to the world from this White House is coming from the President’s Press Secretary, his Chief of Staff and his Special Advisors. It is pure and simply political: Afghanistan? Wait until after the Gubernatorial results are in.
Mary Laney is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer