Commentary Magazine


Obama’s War to Lose

In the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, there is only bad news for Obama:

Support for Obama’s management of the war fell to 36%, down from 48% in a February poll. Now, a record 43% also say it was a mistake to go to war there after the terrorist attacks in 2001. The decline in support contributed to the lowest approval ratings of Obama’s presidency. Amid a lengthy recession, more Americans support his handling of the economy (39%) than the war. Even Obama’s handling of the war in Iraq received record-low approval, despite a drawdown of 90,000 troops and the planned, on-schedule end of U.S. combat operations there this month. Those surveyed Tuesday through Sunday disapproved 53%-41% of the way Obama is handling his job, his lowest ratings since he took office in January 2009.

Obama’s lackluster efforts to explain the stakes in the war and his refusal to drop the timetable for withdrawal of troops have, one can gather, left liberals, conservatives, and those in between unsatisfied. Having lost so much ground with the American people and having frittered away his credibility on a variety of topics, Obama is in a poor position now to rally support. The best he can do on Afghanistan is to allow Gen. David Petraeus to try to win the war. Maybe the most he can do at this stage is get out of the way. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to lift that withdrawal deadline.

It is very hard to win a war, especially a long one against a cagey enemy, without a fully engaged commander in chief and a wholehearted commitment to victory. And one thing is for certain: if Obama is unpopular now, imagine what his ratings will be if he presides over defeat in a war he declared critical to our national security. Let’s hope these poll results, if nothing else, motivate Obama to show some leadership in an increasingly unpopular war. That takes a steel spine — and perhaps Obama can put aside his personal peevishness and ask George W. Bush for some pointers in that department. After all, if not for Bush, we would not now be celebrating a successful conclusion in that battlefront in the war against Islamic terrorists.