The Obama administration’s protracted share session on an Afghanistan troop buildup is turning into a debacle. The commander in chief looks weak and hapless. With Rahm Emanuel making the case for further dithering as Afghan elections get sorted out, and Robert Gates calling for a decision regardless of Afghan leadership, the president’s lauded “team of rivals” is now fractious and incoherent. He has lost the confidence of our allies. He’s losing (lost?) the confidence of his military and, frankly, at cross purposes with his commanders. Consider this:
“A perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.” — Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his submitted assessment of the Afghanistan war
“I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way — you know, sending a message that America — is here for — for the duration.” — President Barack Obama, Meet the Press
Obama desperately wants out of this war and is trying to find something, anything, that will allow the U.S. to move past Afghanistan. Raising troop levels and fighting a war until we’re victorious doesn’t comport with his vision of America’s place in the world. If he had his druthers, the U.S. would “bear witness” as the murderous retrograde Taliban surrounded Afghan cities and took absolute control over suffering Afghans. Perhaps a special envoy would be dispatched to Kabul with a failed scheme to bribe opium farmers into growing grapes.
Afghanistan was a useful campaign tool but is now an unsightly leftover from George W. Bush. The problem is that the White House would happily leave with a win or a draw, but try as they might, every quick fix spells defeat. What’s left? Paralysis. How could the president possibly have handled this worse?