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Obama’s Anemic Public Diplomacy

The latest Quinnipiac poll reports:

American voters say 50 – 44 percent that the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, the first time the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds more voters opposed to the war.  This compares to a September 9 survey in which voters said 49 – 41 percent that the U.S. was doing the right thing in Afghanistan. … Support for President Barack Obama’s policy in Afghanistan turns the political landscape upside down. Democrats say 62 – 33 percent the United States should not be there, even though they strongly support President Obama heavily on virtually all other issues. Republicans, who oppose Obama on most issues, back the war 64 – 31 percent. Independent voters say 54 – 40 percent the United States should not be in Afghanistan. Military families are divided, as 49 percent believe the U.S. is doing the right thing in Afghanistan while 47 percent say the U.S. should not be involved.

There are two issues here. First, given the example the Democrats set during the Iraq war, it is remarkable that Republicans have stuck to their principles and continued support for that war. It’s not a theme that the mainstream media have dwelled on all that much — OK, they’ve entirely ignored it. But when Obama and the White House start whining about GOP partisanship and its being the party of “no,” someone should remind them that on one of the most controversial aspects of Obama’s agenda, the GOP has hung tight.

The second issue is that Obama’s lack of public diplomacy and mixed messaging on our timeline for withdrawal have allowed public support for the war to slide. He’s not made the case forcefully and consistently for why we are there and why we must prevail. At the FPI conference this week, administration figures suggested that at the upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon, Obama would issue a forceful statement on the war effort. This is good, but it shouldn’t be a single declaration. Obama seems to think he has a “communications” problem. While that may be a lame excuse for an election wipeout, it’s an accurate indictment of his war effort. He should commit to remedying that deficiency.


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