He is damned if he does and damned if he does not. I am grateful that I am not in President Obama’s shoes right now, what with his heavy decision on the troop level and our overall involvement in Afghanistan resting on his shoulders. The weight of this impending decision must be quite a heavy load to bear.
The eight year war there is a very complicated situation, with many pros and cons for each side of the debate. My wish, which is not based on any reason or national security considerations, is to get the hell out. This is pure idealism, nothing more. I am glad that the President is taking his time on this matter of troop increases, a strategy for which even Colin Powell has expressed support. This is one of the major reasons I voted for Barack Obama: his intellectual capacity to assess a situation is present and intact. Plus, he willingly steps into that role of “decider” regardless of his ultimate stance after hearing all sides from the experts. President Obama does not just delegate important issues; he makes himself part of the process. He takes responsibility for his policies, which is precisely why he is so deliberate and yes, slow, in making his decisions.
The following article was written by David Brooks of the New York Times on October 29:
Brooks speaks of the President’s tenacity in making and sticking to a decision on Afghanistan. He questions whether or not President Obama has the will to up the troop level in Afghanistan, thus following up past strategy with additional forces to get the job done. My response is another question: does President Obama have the tenacity to withdraw from Afghanistan? Will he use his brain power, common sense and tenacity of purpose to realize that there is no more job to get done there? We haven’t caught Osama bin Laden in eight years, the Karzai government is a sham in terms of its power and ethics and, as long as Afghanistan’s economy is based on the poppy, we are trying to save a country that does not merit saving in its present form. As long as Afghanistan is a moral wasteland for its own people, why are we sacrificing American soldiers to preserve that? So I do hope that President Obama will revisit the other side of the coin, i.e. withdrawing from Afghanistan. Whatever his decision turns out to be, he will have the tenacity to see it through.
Our President is faced with a tough decision. With all the intricacies of the war in Afghanistan, I will understand, if he so chooses, a decision to continue there. I would prefer a withdrawal, or at least a different tack, e.g. influencing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, instead of using guns and bombs. Here’s an article by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times from October 28 on using such proactive policies, as schools, in the war against terrorism:
Of course this argument flies in the face of our own country being on not-so-solid economic ground. Thus, Americans might ask: how and why should we build schools in Afghanistan when our own education system can use all the help and funds it can get? As I said, a very complicated, multi-faceted predicament.
Finally, it is worth a couple of minutes of your time to read the following article about one American’s first hand meeting with President Obama on this past Veteran’s day:
With thanks and appreciation to our service people for all they have done (even if they disagree with our purpose) in Iraq and Afghanistan, I urge President Obama to think long and hard on his decision on Afghanistan. The situation is rife with ambiguity: do we continue to aid the Afghan people a policy that entails putting our own people at risk? Should we throw good money and lives after bad by supporting a well-documented, corrupt government, tainted further by their ridiculous, most recent election? Tough choices. Yet all the while President Obama has had the guts and courage to meet these veterans, some maimed and probably most scarred by their war experiences, to personally console the families of the military personnel we have lost and to put himself in the circle of mourning experienced by these families. Face to face. At Dover, Delaware. At Arlington National Cemetary. At Fort Hood. Damn tough choices.
Upon finishing this essay, I found that Andrew Sullivan wrote on exactly this same topic. And he says it so much better than I ever could:
So yes, folks, we do have a honest-to-goodness President. But his job is not a cake walk. All in all, I do not envy our President. He’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t.