A new poll shows these results about the war in Afghanistan:
By a 65 – 28 percent majority, American voters are willing to have American soldiers “fight and possibly die” to eliminate the threat of terrorists operating from Afghanistan, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. But voters say 49 – 38 percent that they do not think the U.S. will be successful in eliminating this terrorist threat. . . . A 52 – 37 percent majority of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is the right thing for the U.S. to do, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey of 2,630 American voters finds.
While 30 percent of voters are willing to have large numbers of American troops in Afghanistan “as long as it takes,” another 28 percent say less than a year; 21 percent say one to two years and 14 percent say two to five years. Voters are more worried 50 – 42 percent that the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan too long, rather than U.S. troops will leave too soon. But only 32 percent of voters think the U.S. is headed for another Vietnam.
This suggests that there is a heavy reservoir of support for a war effort and is in some sense surprising given the president’s lack of public advocacy for the war. Since his speech, now oft-quoted because he seems to be repudiating it, this spring he’s failed to give a major address and is shushing his military men from engaging the public. If there were a cogent and robust explanation of our war aims, the number might be far higher.
But we don’t and can’t fight wars by polls. Had we done so in Iraq, we’d have retreated, and untold bloodshed and chaos would have resulted. That is why there is no substitute for presidential leadership — especially when the public is weary. Looking back on George W. Bush’s decision to mount the surge, one can only marvel at the intestinal fortitude to ignore the hue and cry from all quarters and do what was needed to prevent an American defeat. That Obama can’t muster a modicum of decisive leadership in a political atmosphere not nearly as treacherous says much about the two leaders.
Can Obama muster the same resolve to do what is needed? He gives no indication that he is willing to do what is needed to secure a victory. “All in” is spoken with disdain — as if only wacky extremists would favor pouring in all the resources and troops required to win a critical war. Not him. He’s above that sort of thing. Well, let’s hope not.