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Democrats Challenge Obama on Afghanistan

Politico has a troubling story in which House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey “threw a bucket of cold water on the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda Thursday, admitting serious doubt about success in Afghanistan and Pakistan ….”

The story continues:

The Wisconsin Democrat… made his remarks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before his panel on the White House’s $83.4 billion request to fund continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as beefed-up spending to forge a closer partnership with Pakistan along the Afghan border. “I frankly don’t know what I am going to do on your supplemental request because I’m very concerned that it is going to wind up with us being stuck in a problem that nobody knows how to get out of,” Obey said of the increased U.S. commitment to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. After nearly eight years of war, largely in Iraq, he said he feared that the United States would find itself consumed by another eight years of conflict that would “devour” President Barack Obama’s ability to make progress elsewhere…. “We have got to look at reality,” he said. “I don’t want to see all of the other goals of this administration, both foreign and domestic, be devoured by this insoluble problem.” “I don’t question your goals, and I don’t question the rationale behind any of the decisions that underlie the policies that this administration intends to pursue,” Obey told Clinton . “What I question is if we in fact have the tools.”

I have certainly had my differences with President Obama on a range of issues — but on Afghanistan, he has acted in a very impressive and far-sighted manner. As for Afghanistan being an “insoluble problem,” that is simply not the case. For more, and specifically for more on the tools that are available to us, see this excellent essay by Fred and Kim Kagan.

One cannot help but be struck by the irony: in the first months of his Administration, it is funding for Afghanistan, the “good war” (as Democrats called it), that is causing more resistance than funding for Iraq, the “bad war,” that was considered lost but has now been turned around. Iraq, belatedly and blessedly, is on the mend, if still fragile, and not fully healed and whole.

For Democrats to be turning on President Obama this early, on this issue, is not a good sign. We’ve of course been through a similar situation before, in Iraq, where the “we can’t win” coalition exerted enormous pressure on President Bush to concede defeat and leave. We’re nowhere near that point yet; Democrats will obviously not go after Obama with the same fury they went after Bush. But these are troubling developments — and Democrats are probably only going to increase the temperature on this matter, since progress in Afghanistan will take time. I hope that in this case, Republicans stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Obama and remind the public, and members of Obama’s own party, why this war can be won, and must be won. And one other thing: I hope that America’s 44th President has a spine as straight and strong as America’s 43rd President did. From time to time it comes in handy for a commander-in-chief.



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