Seek Nor Accept

23Aug09

How bad are things looking for Obama and the Dems? Listen to the tone of the conversation from two leading liberal economists. Paul Krugman sounds down on the economy, but Robert Reich sounds downright depressed regarding what next year will bring.

The Obama family vacation began on Martha’s Vineyard Sunday.

President Obama and his entourage arrived at their vacation home at 3:20 p.m., after a 10-minute motorcade ride from the airport in Vineyard Haven.

How excited were the 150,000 or so people on the little vacation island? Pool reporter Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times indicates the days of Obama the Rock Star may be winding down.

Dozens of people lined the roads from the airport, waving and snapping pictures as the first family rode by. There were kids — and adults — sitting on top of vans and convertibles, catching a better view as the slow-moving motorcade rolled along. Several people held signs greeting the visitors, including those that said: “Aloha Obama Family” and “Hope, Obama.”

Dozens of people? Several signs? Wow. The New York Times, meanwhile, speculated on Sunday that more troublesome for Obama than the bad economy and having to promise not to kill elderly Americans to promote his health care scheme, may be his embrace of the war in Afghanistan.

President Obama had not even taken office before supporters were etching his likeness onto Mount Rushmore as another Abraham Lincoln or the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Yet what if they got the wrong predecessor? What if Mr. Obama is fated to be another Lyndon B. Johnson instead?

Polls now indicate that most Americans are against the war in Afghanistan – a war that the President has portrayed as the Right War, in contrast to Iraq.

“It could all go belly up and we could run out of public support,” said Ronald E. Neumann, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and now president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. “The immediate danger is we don’t explain to Americans how long things take. I certainly get questions like, ‘Is the new strategy turning things around? Is the civilian surge working?’ We’re not going to even get all of those people on the ground for months.”

It seems to me that the right war is the one in Iraq, and that the Afghanistan effort is an overblown response to the manageable issue of al Qaeda training camps.

Richard N. Haass, a former Bush administration official turned critic, wrote in The New York Times last week that what he once considered a war of necessity has become a war of choice. While he still supports it, he argued that there are now alternatives to a large-scale troop presence, like drone attacks on suspected terrorists, more development aid and expanded training of Afghan police and soldiers.

Exactly. What is there to fight over, after all? Sand and poppies? Plus, while there’s no upside in particular, the risks are enormous.

The consequences of failure go beyond just Afghanistan. Next door is its volatile neighbor Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons and already seething with radical anti-American elements.

Labelling Iraq the Wrong War and Afghanistan the Right War was a good electoral strategy, but it wasn’t true. Obama has half confessed this by abandoning his promise to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months without regard for realities on the ground. Despite what Democrats said last year, Iraq is winnable and important to win. So why doesn’t Obama break the other half of his promise, and admit that Afghanistan is a loser.

Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant, a retired Army officer who worked on Iraq on the National Security Council staff first for Mr. Bush and then for Mr. Obama, said Afghanistan may be “several orders of magnitude” harder. It has none of the infrastructure, education and natural resources of Iraq, he noted, nor is the political leadership as aligned in its goals with those of America’s leadership.

Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, doesn’t sound very optimistic about things in Afghanistan either.

The situation in Afghanistan is “serious and deteriorating,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said Sunday, as the Obama administration awaits an assessment by the new U.S. commander there and a possible request for more troops.

Ever since LBJ, the President’s party has struggled with a reputation of being weak on defense. Obama, perhaps, is motivated by a desire to change that reputation and be the first Democrat in a generation to be viewed as a strong Commander in Chief. Instead, he may end up being another LBJ.

“We’re in a place where we don’t have good options and that’s what everyone is struggling with,” Colonel Ollivant said. “Sticking it out seems to be a 10-year project and I’m not sure we have the political capital and financial capital to do that. Yet withdrawing, the cost of that seems awfully high as well. So we have the wolf by the ear.”

And as L.B.J. discovered, the wolf has sharp teeth.

And, of course, liberals are starting to pressure Obama from the left. They don’t want him to compromise on healthcare, and the anti-war movement can’t be complete liars, can they – only against war when it’s Republican war?

Cindy Sheehan arrives on the Vineyard early this week.



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