We Are In The Twilight Zone of Politics

Really. We are. I was on twitter during the President’s speech and my lefty twitter friends are so upset at Obama. The “F” word: was everywhere. On the right I see support, suspicion, and relief. The arguments I am hearing from the right seem pretty weak to me. They argue that we shouldn’t do a “surge and leave,” and you don’t let the enemy know when you are exiting the stage. They will just wait you out. There is also the point that with the 18 month timeline just about the time we get all our troops in there, it will be time to start pulling them out. These things take time, you know. 18 months doesn’t seem long enough. I think Obama said that to throw a bone to the left.:  He will not leave if we are in the middle of it. He will say that “conditions on the ground”: tell us to not withdraw when the time comes.:  Despite all that, I still support the President and I am glad he made the decision he did. Like I said before, he sees the big picture that we don’t have access to.

We have come into the twilight zone of politics though. Here are some statements by other leaders. The liberals are not happy. Republicans like Orrin Hatch say it isn’t enough, and John McCain thinks the decision is just right. Obama is practically Goldilocks here.

As Andrew Ferguson points out in the Weekly Standard blog, Obama is the first Democratic president in forty years to call for a significant deployment of American troops in the national security interest of his country. This is big. It’s historic actually. As I said yesterday, let’s support our troops and back this President, even if we don’t agree with him on anything else.

Here is the disgruntled Arlen Specter’s statement tonight:

“I oppose sending 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan because I am not persuaded that it is indispensable in our fight against Al Qaeda. If it was, I would support an increase because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat Al Qaeda since they’re out to annihilate us. But if Al Qaeda can operate out of Yemen or Somalia, why fight in Afghanistan where no one has succeeded?

I disagree with the President’s two key assumptions: that we can transfer responsibility to Afghanistan after 18 months and that our NATO allies will make a significant contribution. It is unrealistic to expect the United States to be out in 18 months so there is really no exit strategy. This venture is not worth so many American lives or the billions it will add to our deficit.”

From Sen. Orrin Hatch who: sees politics involved in the timing of this:

It is evident the President’s plan for Afghanistan has not maximized our forces’ chances of success. Though the forces to be deployed have important capabilities that will have a meaningful effect on our counterinsurgency operations in the south and east of Afghanistan, the President has handicapped our forces by failing to provide the number of troops requested by his hand-picked commander, General McChrystal. Also concerning, the President’s plan appears to set arbitrary withdrawal deadlines. History shows withdrawal decisions must be determined by the conditions on the ground, not arbitrary deadlines. Coincidentally, the President’s arbitrary deadline assumes the war will be winding down and troops returning home just when the Administration is ramping up its campaign for re-election.

Sen. John McCain agrees with Obama:

“The President has made the right decision to embrace a counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan and to resource it properly. I think the 30,000 additional U.S. troops that will deploy as part of this mission, plus greater allied commitments, will enable us to reverse the momentum of the insurgency and create the conditions for success in Afghanistan. I support the President’s decision, and I think it deserves the support of all Americans, both Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Barbara Boxer:

“I support the president’s mission and exit strategy for Afghanistan, but I do not support adding more troops because there are now 200,000 American, NATO and Afghan forces fighting roughly 20,000 Taliban and less than 100 al Qaeda.”

Umm.. excuse me? Isn’t adding more troops the main part of the “president’s mission?” How can you say you support it and then say you don’t support the foundation of it? Such is the looney logic of Barbara Boxer.

Gen. McChrystal seems to be saying that Obama has given him what he needed:

“The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President’s address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.

“We face many challenges in Afghanistan, but our efforts are sustained by one unassailable reality: neither the Afghan people nor the international community want Afghanistan to remain a sanctuary for terror and violence. The coalition is encouraged by President Obama’s commitment and we remain resolute to empowering the Afghan people to reject the insurgency and build their own future.”

But it is Pelosi’s statement that is the most amusing to me. First of all this chick cannot let go of Bush. She hardly knows what to do without him to push around anymore. Second of all, you can tell the rest of the statment is said through gritted teeth. You will notice that she does not say she agrees or that it’s a good thing. She just points out bascially that Obama said what needed to be said. Then she says congress will take a good long look at it. Then she throws in a little kissy face to the troops for good measure. Such gobbly gook. Really:

“President Obama inherited a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan because the Bush Administration did not have a plan to get the job done.

“Tonight, the President articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating Al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies. The President has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner. The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy.

“Our troops in Afghanistan and around the world have performed excellently; they have done everything that has been asked of them. As always, we are grateful and respectful of the enormous sacrifices our men and women in uniform, and their families, have made.”

Some reaction from disappointed liberals via Reason Magazine:

Garry Wills:

I did not think he would lose me so soon–sooner than Bill Clinton did. Like many people, I was deeply invested in the success of our first African-American president. I had written op-ed pieces and articles to support him in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. My wife and I had maxed out in donations for him. Our children had been ardent for his cause. […]

He said that he would not oppose war in general, but dumb wars. On that basis, we went for him. And now he betrays us. Although he talked of a larger commitment to Afghanistan during his campaign, he has now officially adopted his very own war, one with all the disqualifications that he attacked in the Iraq engagement. This war too is a dumb one. It has even less indigenous props than Iraq did.

Robert Scheer:

It is already a 30-year war begun by one Democratic president, and thanks to the political opportunism of the current commander in chief the Afghanistan war is still without end or logical purpose. President Barack Obama’s own top national security adviser has stated that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida members in Afghanistan and that they are not capable of launching attacks. What superheroes they must be, then, to require 100,000 U.S. troops to contain them.

Glenn Greenwald:

He’s convinced his admirers that this is a form of noble “pragmatism” but, far more often, it appears to be a mishmash of political calculations bereft of principle and plagued by numerous internal contradictions that make it impossible to understand, let alone defend. Everyone gets to read into it whatever they want to see.

Dan Froomkin:

What Obama needed to announce was not just a timeframe for troop withdrawals to begin, but a detailed timeline all the way to complete pullout. He needed to put forth unambiguous benchmarks by which to measure success. And most importantly, he needed to explain precisely what happens if the benchmarks aren’t met – i.e. if things don’t go according to plan. Because they won’t.

Instead, after announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional troops, Obama said that he will “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.” He provided no sense of how quickly that would take place, or when the withdrawal would be complete, saying that would depend on “conditions on the ground.”

See what I mean? Conditions on the ground will determine everything.

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