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Obama's Afghanistan dilemma

Politicians publicly pooh-pooh polling -- the only poll that matters, after all, is on election day! -- but every elected official privately pays close attention to the tides of public opinion.

Which is why President Barack Obama's announcement next Tuesday on troop levels in Afghanistan is so fraught with political peril since a survey of recent national polls shows an American public deeply divided on what to do next in the country.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey showed 50 percent supportive of sending 34,000 more U.S. troops to the region -- a number that seems to have become cemented conventional wisdom in recent weeks -- while 49 percent oppose such a move.

The Washington Post/ABC News survey showed a similarly divided public. Forty six percent of those polled said that if Obama decides to send more troops into Afghanistan they wanted him to send a larger force to "fight Al Quaeda and the Taliban" as well as train Afghan troops while 45 percent favored a smaller force targeted solely at training the Afghan army.

And, a CBS News survey showed 32 percent of the sample supportive of increasing the number of troops in the country, 39 percent backing a troop decrease and 20 percent in favor of keeping the troop levels the same.

This is the divided nation that the President will address on Tuesday night. Choosing a primetime speech is a smart decision by his inner circle as it is clearly Obama's strongest medium -- allowing him to explain the stakes from both the micro and macro points of view while utilizing his natural oratorical abilities to make the case.

The problem for the president is that no matter what he says on Tuesday night there will be significant constituencies that will oppose it. The left has made clear that they believe a troop increase to be the exact wrong solution in Iraq, raising comparisons to Iraq and the idea of an unwinnable war. The right, on the other hand, has suggested that anything short of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's 40,000 troop request is a sign that Obama isn't listening to the commanders on the ground.

There is then, from a political perspective, no right answer in Afghanistan for the president. It is amounts to the classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" decision.

Presidencies often rise and fall on these sorts of decisions where public opinion is divided and the chief executive must make a judgment call on what he believes to be the right course given the information before him.

That is the task before President Obama next Tuesday. It is as tough a call as he will have during his first four years in the White House.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 24, 2009; 11:58 AM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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It seems like President Obama cares more about politics than winning this war on terror.


There is no "war on terror," that was just a slogan to dull your reason. Victory in Afghanistant isn't even definable.

The terrorists who arranged the 9/11 thingee have been out of Afghanistan for years. We're struggling to close the barn door long after the horse is already gone, and to what end?

Your "war on terror" is nothing more than a playground-level anxiety about "appearing weak."

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

It seems like President Obama cares more about politics than winning this war on terror. That's a sad state of affairs. We have a president so weak on defense that he is trying to run a war on polls. A very bad decision first and foremost. He hesitates to even give his own appointed general the troops he needs to win a war...what? What a morale killer for the troops over on the ground now. Not to mention a morale killer, it's also a dangerous situation to leave troops on the ground to do the job of themselves + 60,000 more troops. This is a very irresponsible way to run a war, and frankly, it's ineffective. It's putting politics over principle and security. President Obama, forget the polls! Forget the liberal & conservative bases! Look into your heart and soul, do the right thing and do what it takes for us to be successful in this war. Politics be damned!

Posted by: reason5 | November 25, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Let's stop sticking our noses where they don't belong

Posted by: kogejoe


Oh if only we had followed this advice for the whole last century. Imagine how different would be our history with Iran if we hadn't saddled them with Shah Pahlevi, ruthless and cruel and corrupt. There would have been no Islamic Revolution, Khomeini would have died in Paris, Ahmadinejad wouldn't be strutting about denying the Holocaust.

We have a looong list of atrocities to answer for, and the majority of them were done for the profits of unscrupulous corporations, not in out national interest in any way.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 25, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

ceflynline has a near-monopoly on the good posts here.

Posted by: nodebris | November 24, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Foreign adventurism fills war profiteer coffers, deflects attention from this domestic atrocity:


• Did this program target, and help incite, the Ft. Hood shooter?

• Gov't-enabled community "watch" vigilantes infiltrate health care system, compromise care of unjustly targeted Americans and their relatives, says journalist-victim OR RE: "GESTAPO USA"


Posted by: scrivener50 | November 24, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Hrm... the Afghanistan dilemma. Anybody remember why we were there in the first place? Was it to catch Osama, or to nation build?

Out of all the nations that need help succeeding, why is it we take special interest in the Middle East? *cough*oil*cough

We need to realize that the problem is we shouldn't even be there to begin with. There are enough problems with our own nation, its security, its jobs, economy etc. Let's fix those before we can pretend to be this nation that goes off and tries to "help." We're doing nothing to help, and more to destroy and create enemies.

Let's just bring our troops home. Afghanistan never declared a war with us; we went there. Let's stop sticking our noses where they don't belong, come home and fix home.

Posted by: kogejoe | November 24, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

" "cojones," by the way Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite "

The Propriety checker will always let misspellings pass.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

"cojones," by the way

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 24, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Nothing to disagree with in your post ceflynline, but there remains the fact that the Afghan people are not confident in their government because of this corruption, despite it being their norm. And so long as people don't believe the government is looking after their interests they seek out people whom (they believe) will do so.

Spot on about it being a Republican wet dream, I think of Somalia and Lebanon as real GOP envy spots .. no regulations, no taxes, guns everywhere, enslavement as easy as finding some people.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 24, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"And even if all our efforts succeed and at whatever cost in life and treasure, Afghanistan is still under the rule of a deeply corrupt leader and his cronies.
Yeah that makes a lot of sense.
And AQ isn't even there anymore.
Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite"

It is the hope that, corrupt or not, those cronies will someday be able to make sure that al Quaeda never returns to Afghanistan that is one of the goals of supporting Karzai.

There is corruption and then there is corruption. Afghanistan has some three thousand or more years being governed by a feudal association of warlords. Coruption is a way of life because these very conservative, (almost Republican Like) rich bosses own the country and treat it somewhat like the Republicans treat America when THEY hold the reigns of power. Do whatever makes you richer. In such a feudal society trickle down economics has been the norm for millenia. If you are in the bottom class, you hope to get the scraps that fall from the master's table. Ronnie would recognize and approve.

Since paying his agents costs the warlord money he wants for his own, his agents need bribes to exist, more bribes to pay for their current position, and MORE bribes to get the money to buy his next position. Sort of like Reagans cabinet people for eight years.

We are supporting a bunch of Republicans in a Republican Paradise, right down to the obsessive and pervasive possession of fire arms.

Still, as long as they keep al Quaeda shivering in caves in Pakistan, we can be fundamentally satisfied.

All kippers and ale it ain't, but it is marginally better than mud in yer eye, and just a bit better than a kick in the cajones.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

And even if all our efforts succeed and at whatever cost in life and treasure, Afghanistan is still under the rule of a deeply corrupt leader and his cronies.

Yeah that makes a lot of sense.

And AQ isn't even there anymore.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 24, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh how I despise war.... In and around the mountains of Afghanistan, terrorists plotted the murder of thousands of civilians on 9/11. In the years that followed these same terrorists are responsible for 927 US KIA's and almost 5,000 US wounded, we have one of the most technologically advanced Armed Forces in the world and yet we send our troops in to be picked off by suicide bombers with the very same technique used on 9/11. If we are going to risk one more human life, we MUST have a clear objective and a decisive plan. Peace keeping is a policing policy NOT a military goal.

Posted by: jab3698 | November 24, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

We can start fixing it in 2010 and run Obama out of office in 2012.


And who do you have who could do that, champ?

Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich?

Tim Pawlenty?

Sarah Palin?


Lotta big talk from a loser still loyal to losers.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 24, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

This is what you get when you elect an incompetent community organizer to lead our Nation. We can start fixing it in 2010 and run Obama out of office in 2012.

For the guy above who said Joe Biden will be elected in 2012, thanks I needed a good laugh. Joe is lucky to dress himself in the morning. But he is more qualified than Obama.

Obama has gone to lame duck status faster than any other President. He will be noted in the history books for primarily making Carter look like a pillar of strength and resolve.

The dithering on Afganistan is just the latest example of an administration run amuck without a rudder.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | November 24, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Let's try at least to get a guess on what Obama will try to establish in his speach.

1. Proper understanding of what our interests are. (I maintain that we must hold the Taliban at bay until they morph away from being under aged Mullahs in turbans to something of an actual political organization)

2. A clear recitation of goals. ( How about, "Holding the line until Afghanistan gels as THEIR definition of a country."

IFF the choice is more troops:

3 A basic definition of victory, a basic definition of failure, and metrics to decide which is which. (Victory: Afghanistan goes back to being a country, and not a religious experiment. Failure: The Afghans decide that Islam trumps nationhood.)

4 A realistic worst case scenario of what we might need to achieve Victory as previously defined. (Say 250,000 troops in country for ten years.) and costs, ($250 Billion a year for those ten years).
And most importantly:

5 A call to bipartisan support, with the caveat that, absent real bipartisan support, (more than half of the Republicans voting for his proposals) a promise to bring out those troops when it becomes apparent that "Support our Troops)m takes a back seat to "defeat Obama".

IT is proposition five on which this whole thing swings. Given the current tack of the Republican leadership in Congress and the RNC, it is most likely THAT point that will be the deal breaker.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Just bring all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan by New Years and America will be happy.


Posted by: WillSeattle | November 24, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Obama's only problem is how to sell his choice to America and get solid support for it. Whichever choice he has made.

Assuming that he has gone with the Army's recommendations, (quite likely) he has to sell "another Viet nam" to his own party, and sell a bigger Army, and the taxes, or deficit, to pay for it to the republicans. The real question will come when he asks for more troops and the taxes, (possible a revenue tariff, since any effect that might have on the economy will be somewhat offset by an improved jobs picture) that will keep from truly busting the budget.

When McConnell and Boehner announce their unmitigated opposition to WHATEVER path he takes, that probably ought to doom the Afghans to the return of the Taliban.

I'd post on the REAL military considerations, but that size post always gets held, "For the moderator's review."

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

This holiday week, over 400 people will be killed on our highways.

So far this year we've lost over 260 soldiers in Afghanistan.


It costs approximately a million dollars to maintain a soldier in the Graveyard of Empires for a year. One hopes that every one of them comes home alive and whole but that's tens of billions pissed away each year for goals that seem not only increasingly elusive but increasingly undefined.

Obama's "finish the job" doesn't sound encouraging.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 24, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Democrats who are not pleased with this new policy can to start to understand the power of the internet.

Do a search for "email senator (your state)" and find out the power of the internet.

The below is to send a comment to Joe Biden, our next Democratic candidate for president in 2012.

We all know that Joe Biden sometimes makes off the cuff mistakes in public, while in private he can make the right decision about limited involvement in Afghanistan.

No despair America, as in 2005, we learned to live with 3 years of a lame duck president.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 24, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Just a gentle reminder - and a comparison.

This holiday week, over 400 people will be killed on our highways.

So far this year we've lost over 260 soldiers in Afghanistan.

The issue of Vietnam was that we never fully staffed the plan. Let's not repeat that error. I'd rather see us drive Al Quaeda and the Taliban off the planet and have a viable Afghani government than to try and do it in a half-baked manner.

Drive safely this week.

Posted by: Greg S. | November 24, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

As with Vietnam, this sort of situation can have no reasonable solution, no how mush money or resources you have, or can borrow to further the cause. We need to get out now, while we still have some dignity left.

Posted by: tgolamb | November 24, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm concerned that we're wasting so much money on "security." Consider that the Ft. Hood shooter had all his IDs and clearances, so I don't think much more can be done.

Also, I see Afghanistan with its tribal warlords as 1000 Somalias, and we had little success there, as depicted in the film, "Blackhawk Down."

Let's save some money, build our economy, and provide healthcare, including stopping further injuries to our soldiers.

Posted by: henobi | November 24, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse


Obama knows what his plan is, and has for a long time.

His plan is to make sure it is a crisis staged apex, so people will actually watch him on the TV Set.

Obamajoker face cares liitle how many soldiers were maimed or died this month, he had a good time.

Obama= NPD Sociopathic dual profile in need of a medical stand down to void all of his signatures, and open his illegally secreted intel.

Posted by: dottydo | November 24, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Chris, you are right. Polls matter, that is why the president drags his decision on additional troops to Afghanistan so long, to see where the polls will tilt. But since there is a lot of static and ambivalence in the polls, he is going to dive in. Whether or not he will be soaked into the Afghanistan quagmire, and sink if things go wrong on his 2012 re-election, is still a toss up. But I bet more troops will worsen the situation, cause more deaths and destruction on both sides, and definitely bust our federal deficit and
financial recovery curve. And, by the way, I am not a leftist, just an antiwar activist because I don't see any virtue in killing, destruction, and mayhem without a cause. After all, AL Qaeda vanished from Afghanistan 8 years ago.

Does really Obama have a dilemma in Afghanistan? Not really. He continues George Bush's policy on a 100% basis. I have no doubt that his white house camarilla advised him to continue the war to fend off attacks from the Republicans that he is soft on terrorism, and if his effort fails -which is a sure thing, they can turn around and blame it on Bush who started the war. You, know, in politics public perceptions are more important than reality, and Obama probably believes that he can have his cake in Afghanistan, and, if it gives him indigestion on his 2012 re-election bid, he can splash the leftovers on the Republicans for their 7 years of failures there before he took over.

Obama, in my view, is going to ride a dead horse in Afghanistan, and if he falls off the saddle of public opinion by 2012, he may not be able to saddle the Republicans for his failure. After all, if has not learned anything after 7 years of Bush's failures, most Americans would certainly be less inclined to forgive him.

Jimmy Carter lost his re-election to Ronald Reagan for his failed military rescue of the American hostages in Iran. And Lyndon Johnson refused to run for re-election after his promise to defeat the North Vietnamese proved to be empty bravado. Is Obama heading in that direction as Carter and Johnson? If the historical precedents hold, I believe that he might realize some day that he mistook oblivion for wisdom! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by: Nikos_Retsos | November 24, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Proposed short speech for the President

I have decided to accept the plan to occupy areas of Afghanistan and use nation building to build the will of the Afghans to fight and defeat the Taliban. Areas of Afghanistan will be controlled totally by American forces with the population protected from both the Taliban and the corrupt government.

The exit strategy for the Unites States is simple.

Our troops leave Afghanistan when the Afghans have defeated the Taliban, or our troops leave when with mounting losses of Americans the United States decides it will no longer wait for Afghans to be willing to defeat the Taliban.

I am certain that Afghans will warmly accept our occupation of Afghanistan to protect Afghans.

I am certain that Afghans when they see the death of innocent Afghans, caused by firefights between American troops and the Taliban in crowded marketplaces, will understand that America is there to protect the Afghans, and that this will not ignite a holy crusade to force the foreign invaders out of Afghanistan.

I am sure my fellow Americans in a time of economic need here in America, fully understand the need for American resources and American effort to achieve nation building in Afghanistan.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 24, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

thanks, simon, it's nice for a change to see someone contribute who provides a deeper grasp of the subject

Further info on earlier Fix post on RNC shakeup:

' Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports that Francis’ abrupt departure was not by choice, quoting two Republican strategists who say that Francis was “pushed out” because Steele “didn’t feel he was getting enough credit for the GOP’s electoral success earlier this month.” Steele apparently attributes this to a communications failure by Francis.

Francis is being replaced by Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor who fashions himself as the “father of the modern attack ad.” Castellanos is no stranger to the RNC, having received four payments totaling $434,336 from them for media work since July. Castellanos has also been a key player in the effort to stop health care reform:

– His political consulting firm, National Media, was the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plan’s (AHIP) recent ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans.

– In July, he wrote a memo for the GOP leadership on how to kill health reform that emphasized the use of buzzwords to characterize Democratic plans — like “risky” and “experiment” — but most importantly defined the ultimate goal: “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it.”

– He has repeatedly used his pundit perch on CNN to attack President Obama’s health care reform effort, calling it “a big gamble” and an “expensive trillion-dollar experiment.”

Before the health care debate, Castellanos was best known as the creator of the racially-charged “Hands” advertisement, which ran on behalf of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC). In May 2008, Castellanos defended sexism during the 2008 campaign by saying that sometimes it’s “accurate” to describe a woman as a “b*tch.”

Posted by: drindl | November 24, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama has to thank former President Bush for Osama’s ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ dilemma. By diverting his attention to Iraq, Bush let Afghanistan problem worsen while his buddy Musharraf provided sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in Quetta, Baluchistan. Now American people are tired of Bush’s prolonged war.

General McChrystal observed in his assessment to the President:
1. Most insurgent fighters in Afghanistan are directed by a small number of Afghan senior leaders based in Pakistan that work through an alternative political infrastructure in Afghanistan.
2. The Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) based in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is the No. 1 threat to US/NATO mission in Afghanistan. At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Mohammed Omar (Afghan Taliban Chief) announces his guidance and intent for the coming year.
3. Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's lSI. Al Qaeda and associated movements (AQAM) based in Pakistan channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers, and technical assistance into Afghanistan, and offer ideological motivation, training, and financial support.

While mounting South Waziristan offensive, Pakistani establishment continues to deny the existence of Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) located in Baluchistan. Besides sheltering Haqqani’s group and Mullah Mohammed Omar’s Afghan Taliban, democratic government of Pakistan continues to sign peace deals with Pakistani Taliban groups like the ones led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir, allowing them to continue to terrorize Afghanistan so long as those groups do not terrorize Pakistan.

Afterall Pakistan is sheltering these Afghan groups since 2001 for a reason - to reestablish Pakistan’s writ in Afghanistan as and when US leaves.

As long as US continues to coddle Pakistan and as long as US is unwilling to use its aid leverage to force Pakistan to crack down on not just select few in border areas but ALL Taliban/Al Qaeda factions within entire Pakistan, US mission has NO chance of succeeding in Afghanistan.

Posted by: simplesimon33 | November 24, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

There is a correct answer.

As someone who spent seven years in the Army and was a Sergeant by the end, my recommendation is that Obama ignore those calling for more troops and focuses on strategy.

We were attacked by al-Qaeda. They are NOT in Iraq. They are NOT in Afghanistan. There is no strategic reason to bog our troops, equipment, and scarce national resources in two countries with civil wars that have nothing to do with America.

However, we should continue the use of drones, bridge and road reconstruction, and otherwise get out of Dodge.

Posted by: WillSeattle | November 24, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The Fix writes
"Presidencies often rise and fall on these sorts of decisions where public opinion is divided and the chief executive must make a judgment call on what he believes to be the right course given the information before him.

That is the task before President Obama next Tuesday. It is as tough a call as he will have during his first four years in the White House."

The presidencies that rise on these decisions are the ones that convince voters the correct choice was made. Obama's challenge isn't to pick the most popular option, but to effectively persuade the voters that whatever choice he makes is the proper one.

What is predictable: after the announcement is the GOP will criticize the decision 30% of voters will agree. What is likely: 20% of voters, regardless of any decision other than complete withdrawl, will find his decision too hawkish; too many troops, too many dollars, too many additional lives to be lost. So the question is how the other 50% react. Can he explain his decision in a way that voters back him?

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 24, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this essentially a re-run of your post from last week or the week before, Chris?

Posted by: nodebris | November 24, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I don't know were this reporter got his information but the Obama admin does not listen to polls because if they did they would not be pushing the health care bill that only 39% of the country approves of this according to the lastest poll. Obama has had 12 afgan war councel meetings. There are people dying over there because of lack on personel. Ether poop or get off the pot. No one likes war but we are already there and its a little to late to be second guessing why we should or shouldn't be there. These crazys that want to kill us will not stop trying if we bring everyone home today. They have been trying for years and are not going to stop trying until we change the mind sets of these nut jobs and the Obama admin hasn't even had one meetting on that subject.

Posted by: rainman2 | November 24, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

how many of the 40,000 troopers will be sipping cappacino and hunkering down behind the wire OVER THERE like a bunch of sunshine patriots, phony soldiers, and uniformed cowards?

never the less, effectively export democracy and send more bureaucrats, parasites, and pidgeons to afghanistan.

vive le terror-lite

Posted by: therapy | November 24, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

how many of the 40,000 troopers will be sipping cappacino and hunkering down behind the wire OVER THERE like a bunch of sunshine patriots, phony soldiers, and uniformed cowards?

never the less, effectively export democracy and send more bureaucrats, parasites, and pidgeons to afghanistan.

vive le terror-lite

Posted by: therapy | November 24, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse


No one is going to be pleased by President Obama's decision, but the main thing he's got to do is to articulate a specific purpose and a reasonably detailed exit strategy--something he has yet to do.

The Right (lately as personified by Liz Cheney, a chip off the old blockhead) talk about 'winning' in Afghanistan. WHAT does 'winning' mean? And has the US 'won' in Iraq, after all the bloodshed and sacrifice? Who knows, unless someone articulates what 'winning' actually means?

These aren't wars like WW II, where there were clear, national enemies who were to be vanquished. Nor are they like the Cold War, where the Communist ideology, particularly as represented by Russia was to be blocked at any cost.

Somehow, someone, somewhere must articulate a narrow definition of the meaning of 'winning'. Otherwise, it will be impossible to know if the US has indeed 'won', and if the 'victory' has been worth it.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | November 24, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The political choice would be to send 40,000 more troops.

Sure, the Republicans would still find something to criticize, but it would neutralize their core argument that he isn't committed to the war on terror (lack of capitalization intentional) and reassure conservative independents that he's not really the conciliatory serial apologizer the fringe right claim he is.

The Left would be up in arms, but when it really comes down to it they aren't going to vote Republican.

The correct choice? Well, that's harder. But if he doesn't see a clear path to establishing a stable, post-occupation Afghanistan, then Obama will likely make the hard choice to walk away rather than sacrifice more American lives and treasure in a futile, exhausting, and potentially endless police action to protect the status quo.

Posted by: Gallenod | November 24, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Obama said during the campaign:

Now he continues Bush's stupid war. His words are meaningless.

Posted by: Billw3 | November 24, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Gibbs told reporters before the Monday evening review session that Obama was still seeking information on "not just how we get people there, but what's the strategy for getting them out."
Why is the President and his advisers so dense?

"the Afghans must ultimately defeat the insurgents."

If the United States accepts the plan of the general to occupy large areas of Afghanistan, and wait for the Afghans to be willing to fight and defeat the Taliban, the exit strategy or endgame is obvious.

Our troops leave Afghanistan when the Afghans have defeated the Taliban, or our troops leave when with mounting losses of Americans the United States decides it will no longer wait for Afghans to be willing to defeat the Taliban.

The talk of exit strategy and endgames are nonsense when the exit strategy and endgames are so obvious.

Good Morning Afghanistan!

Posted by: bsallamack | November 24, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

KraftPaper...what the hell are you talking about???

Posted by: DDAWD | November 24, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

This decision should have nothing to do with polls or politics. Even discussing it as a political matter is cheesy.

Obama has to do what is right for this country, what best assures our safety, and anyone who wants to politicize be d*mned.

Posted by: drindl | November 24, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

So Post editors are telling me that when someone or something pre-recorded calls and asks if I'd like to participate in a poll I'd be essentially helping the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House decide what is the correct course for America to take on this any sundry issue. It's so important that using the skills I learned in academia I should be able to unravel all the twists and turns in a convenient melodrama contrived so that the right is correct half the time when the number reached is over 40,000 and the left correct when that number is no greater than 39,999? That's the US at its most base deciding whether to watch the NFL on Monday night or maybe Dancing with the Stars. If a General McCrystal can do a polka better than Simon Cowell we go to war and never look back.

That sort of strategy may have worked for Joe Gerardi in calling the shots in the bullpen against the Phillies, but I think we need to look at something else besides what some random generated number says is the winning combination for a re-election bid. Before we call up the dead and ask the likes of Walter Lippmann what we should do perhaps we should have the confidence in our leaders to decide without asking one of the millions of Sarah Palin clones out in cyberspace or wherever it is she roams when not shooting defenseless animals from a government helicopter for sport.

The bigger issue and there is one is how to balance the economy, aka jobs, with a war where not long ago we were more concerned with building hospitals and schools and roads for Iraqis than here at home for our students, families and friends. A decisive blow to terrorism is already unfolding albeit the promise of victory may be when Haley's comet recycles. But to give up now when we are on the brink of damaging the whole extremist web of deceit and betrayal, murder and violence beginning but not ending with Iran and Hezbollah would be shameful. Think of all the US marines who died in Beirut, yes Lebanon in 1982 I believe for essentially nothing without pursuing a tactical war of aggression against an enemy which sees murder as a righteous act. And don't start with relativist morals. Now is the time to get tough. Not ten years from now. That we waited twenty or more years to come to terms with this enemy is a testament to our lack of direction. Lets use our brains not our devices to decide what to do.

Posted by: KraftPaper | November 24, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The president through conciliation and concession — not to mention constant talk —is trying to superficially restore the influence we once earned by virtue of our economic power and self-confidence in our exceptional past and singular values.

But being both loud and vulnerable is not a winning combination, since political influence and military power are ultimately predicated on economic strength.

The United States needs to re-establish itself as financially credible and responsible so that when we lecture — about everything from global warming to Iranian nukes — we do so from a position of strength. That means, we need to stop borrowing other nations' money.

America also can't afford to keep importing high-priced oil that we won't produce at home. And we should stop promising ever more government entitlements to ever more voters that we can't even begin to pay for.

For as we continue in our self-indulgence, a more defiant world seems to be saying that the old rules of the game have changed. In response, America should keep quieter abroad — and try finding a bigger stick.

Posted by: leapin | November 24, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"Presidencies often rise and fall on these sorts of decisions where public opinion is divided and the chief executive must make a judgment call on what he believes to be the right course given the information before him. "
OTOH, a few of us vote for a presidnet thinking he'll make ALL his decisions on what he thinks is best for the coutry.

Posted by: F_L_Palmer | November 24, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Actually, it might be liberating to BHO knowing that public opinion is so closely divided. That basically takes the politics out of it and allows him to make what he considers the right decision. Regardless of what he decides, about half the population will agree or disagree with his actions, if the polls are to be believed.

Posted by: mnteng | November 24, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

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