While driving two of my children to school yesterday, I tuned in to Chris Plante, who hosts a talk show on WMAL. The topic was Afghanistan, and within the first five minutes of the show, Plante referred to it as “Obama’s War” or some version of that around a half-dozen times. It was repetitive, relentless, and irresponsible.
I say that because this is not “Obama’s War”; it is America’s war. The effort to pin it on Obama is a barely disguised effort to encourage Republicans and conservatives to turn against the war. If it’s “Obama’s War,” after all, how can any true Republican or conservative support it? There is an almost mathematical quality to the commentary of some people: if Obama does it, then it must by definition be wrong.
I happen to think it would be a grave moral and geopolitical mistake to retreat in Afghanistan, particularly since demonstrable progress is being made under the command of General David Petraeus (see here and here). If others disagree, then the debate should be engaged. But to try to split the country along partisan lines in the way Plante is doing is troubling. It was wrong when the left did this with Iraq (“Bush’s War”), and it is wrong for conservatives to do it with Afghanistan.
I would add one other thing: whatever complaints conservatives have against Obama — and I’ve made mine clear on almost a daily basis since January 20, 2009 — Afghanistan is one area where he’s made the right decisions, from increasing the number of troops, to endorsing a more traditional counterinsurgency strategy, to asking Petraeus to oversee the war effort. The president has made errors, in my opinion, including his repeated emphasis in the past on withdrawing troops by the summer of 2011. But he’s backed away from that recently, and, overall, Obama has been quite strong on Afghanistan. It shouldn’t trouble conservatives too much to say so.