Victor Davis Hanson writes that there are basically three choices for President Obama in Afghanistan:
It is not an easy call, either politically or militarily. But still the choice is one far easier than the prior surge—given our unprecedented strength, the ability of liberal Presidents to calm Pavlovian anti-war outbursts, and the fact that we are fighting a nasty form of fascism, not a boutique sort of communism that appeals to the ignorant. (A cap-and-trade, gay-marriage, anti-American may find an Ortega or Castro romantic in a way he does not bin Laden or Zawahiri.)
So you can (1) get out, watch a general slaughter and boat-person-like overland exodus of the doomed; blame Bush, borrowing the language you employed against Iraq in 2007-8—and enjoy the acclaim accorded to laureates with troubled brows and bitten lips;
Or (2) you can sort of, kinda, maybe, maybe not, vote present, and continue as we are now, hoping we don’t lose as we don’t win. It’s the LBJ choice, counting on the sympathetic New York Times and NBC and Newsweek for a bit longer not to turn on you, and so will ignore the ‘tolerable” monthly body count;
Or (3) you can offend your liberal base, snub you sponsors in Oslo, and send in another 40,000. That would mean Churchillian talk of winning, a visit to the theater, and a FDR-like encouragement of the troops.
You might have to define the Taliban for what it is—a fascistic sort of murderous religious zealots—and lay out the objectives at hand: freedom for the Afghan people to govern themselves, with a message to radical Islam that never again will they plot the destruction of the US from a safe haven.
If you pick the easy 1, your friends will praise you not as expedient, but “brave”, “principled, and “daring.”
The even easier choice 2 ensures you grudging report, more disdain for Bush, and a neutral issue that neither hurts nor helps you in 2010. You may still do the old “Bush did it” to me thing and staunch the bleeding. Your “ordeal” and “agony” will earn Newsweek essays daily, and photos of you walking troubled and alone in the Rose garden.
But 3? That offends both your base, the Europeans, and even the public—and helps only the soldiers out on the frontier, sometimes outnumbered and outgunned. They are fighting and dying for a vision of freedom and security that they once took as sincere when they landed in that godforsaken country to fight godforsaken enemies from the 7th century. Do 3 and you will be surprised at the number of us who did not vote for you, but who will support your decision—even as casualties mount in the short term from the surge, and those who voted for you turn on you.
It is not easy, and a lot harder than campaigning. But that’s what Presidents do—they are trashed while they are in office, and judged fairly only when they are retired or beyond.
Presidents tend to be judged far more on their success or failures abroad than their domestic policies, even if for most “progressive” presidents, they’d rather focus on remolding life inside the US than oppressed nations abroad. Time magazine compared Obama to FDR even before he took office — but winning his war is a big part of the reason why FDR is remembered favorably by liberal historians…
…And LBJ, who essentially treaded water in Vietnam, isn’t.