Jun 23 2011

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Afghanistan and 2012

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Now It is All We Have Left…

Wondering how confident the Obama high command is about re-election in 2012?

Look no further than the President’s announcement regarding troop reductions from Afghanistan last night.

In making the choice to withdraw 10,000 surge troops this year – and the other 23,000 by September 2012 – POTUS has signaled his structural political weakness as we approach the next election cycle, even as the Republicans have struggled to field a credible challenger.

Military commanders on the ground preferred to keep the surge forces in place through 2012 to solidify hard-won gains against the Taliban. Democrats in Congress, and the President’s increasingly restive progressive base, wanted a complete draw down this year.

A confident, politically secure Commander in Chief would have gone with the recommendations of the field commanders and kept the troops in Afghanistan for another 18 months.

The rationale here is compelling.

We have been at war in Afghanistan for nearly ten years.  The Bush-Obama surge in Afghanistan arrested a deteriorating situation in ’09-10 and turned the tide.  The extra boots on the ground were crucial to that success. At the end of the day, isn’t 18 months of additional service a small price to pay to lock in the sacrifice of a decade of American blood and treasure, and prevent the re-establishment of terrorist safe havens?

But unlike President Bush’s surge in Iraq in 2007, President Obama seems unwilling to accept the domestic political backlash of maintaining force levels in Afghanistan in the face of war weariness among the American people generally, and his truculent base in particular.

So, the President split the difference. 

Some forces out this year. The rest out a little more than a month before Election Day.

But in presenting the plan to the American people, there appeared to be no unifying strategy to justify the withdrawal or an alternative plan to make do with less.

 Instead, we have the President as a “confidence man” to fill the void.  We are withdrawing our forces “from a position of strength” and the “tide of war is receding.”

 When military commanders say that progress in Afghanistan is “fragile and reversible, this is a fairly big gamble.

Which points to Obama’s remarkable political weakness.

With unemployment stuck at 9%, anemic and slowing economic growth, ballooning national debt and commodity price increases, the President has lost significant ground with Independent voters.

But, more importantly, the President is taking increasingly public fire from his base for not doing enough to advocate and implement their progressive agenda. 

The most recent and startling display of this discontent came from former Vice President Al Gore who publicly blamed Obama for not doing enough on global warming.

We are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. The U.S. is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the U.S.”

So, the President is in a pickle.

There is no chance that Congress will implement any sweeping Obama spending or government expansion initiatives.

A grand deal on entitlements and spending that would be appealing to Independents is unlikely as POTUS is boxed in by his own base that refuses to accept reality of pending insolvency for Medicare and Social Security that tax increases alone cannot solve.

And both the CBO and the Fed point to distressing economic forecasts over the next 18 months – and that assumes that stewing cauldrons such as the financial crisis in Greece don’t blow up in the meantime.

So President Obama used the only arrow left in his quiver – the ability to set forces levels on Afghanistan – with a split-the-difference approach rooted in re-election politics and not a grounded strategy.

At the end of the month, presidential candidates will report on their fundraising.

By all accounts, after 30 fund raisers, President Obama is going to put up some impressive numbers; probably far outstripping any of his Republican challengers, and perhaps raising more than all his opponents combined.

That will prompt a great deal of chatter about how formidable the President is for re-election.

Don’t believe a word of it.

It is “Potemkin Strength.”

The real state of play was revealed last night when the President subordinated national security to his re-election campaign by the necessity to appease his base.

Sad, disappointing and dangerous.

1 comment

  1. Steven B

    The ad for me is for obama shirts for re-election. Yes sir!

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