Obama's Killing Time

Four more US Soldiers died in Afghanistan yesterday as we continued to wait anxiously for Obama to make up his mind about how to respond to General McChrystal’s report. During the pre-surge days in Iraq, 4 dead soldiers was enough for every major news outlet to scream from the rooftops about the costs of war. Now? Hardly a whisper.

Why is it so hard, Mr. President, to DO something about Afghanistan-even if you have to adjust your strategy again later-given that doing NOTHING has only gained you more fallen heroes? Since taking office, YOUR casualty count is nearly DOUBLE that of George Bush’s worst year as Commander in Chief. Why? Since receiving McChrystal’s assessment back in late August, your casualty count is rapidly approaching half of the entire year’s total. Again, Mr. President, WHY?

I brought this up a month ago, asking the same question…and that was a month AFTER Obama had received MCrystal’s assessment. It’s been another month hence, and still no strategy. We’re hearing now that Obama may “lock in” his decision by next Monday, but we’ve been hearing that for weeks. What’s so special about next Monday, other than it’s the Senate’s first day back to begin debate on the healthcare debacle? And, what exactly does “lock” mean? We’ve already been given one strategy and now we’re about to get another. Does this President actually believe there is one and only one strategy and that no further adjustments will be necessary as conditions on the ground change? He’s just not that good at the war “thing” and neither are very many of his “war councilors” for that matter.

If the measure of “getting it right” is determined by how long it takes you to do it, could we PLEASE apply this principle to the REST of the Obama agenda? Maybe an extended “cooling off period” for healthcare, cap and trade, and the buyouts and sellouts of America’s private sector would be better served as well.

Obama had a plan in mind when he ran for President, and he shared it with us 8 months ago. He was pretty sure of himself about the way forward in Afghanistan back then, suggesting that:

[t]he United States has a vital national security interest in addressing the current and potential security threats posed by extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan, al Qaeda and other groups of jihadist terrorists are planning new terror attacks. Their targets remain the U.S. homeland, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Europe, Australia, our allies in the Middle East, and other targets of opportunity. The growing size of the space in which they are operating is a direct result of the terrorist/insurgent activities of the Taliban and related organizations. At the same time, this group seeks to reestablish their old sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Therefore, the core goal of the U.S. must be to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The ability of extremists in Pakistan to undermine Afghanistan is proven, while insurgency in Afghanistan feeds instability in Pakistan. The threat that al Qaeda poses to the United States and our allies in Pakistan – including the possibility of extremists obtaining fissile material – is all too real. Without more effective action against these groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan will face continuing instability.

Now, of course, Obama’s not quite so sure of himself even though much of McChrystal’s report in August supports these claims. A week ago Obama used the “O” word as he thought out loud about what to do:

US President Barack Obama says his administration will soon announce “very clear benchmarks” for Afghanistan that would bring the eight-year long occupation there to an end.

In an interview on Wednesday, Obama said that he will bring the Afghan war to an end before he leaves office.

“My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president. One of the things I’d like is the next president to be able to come in and say I’ve got a clean slate,” CNN quoted Obama as saying.

The president emphasized that “a multi-year occupation won’t serve the interests of the United States.”

“The American people will have a lot of clarity about what we’re doing, how we’re going to succeed, how much this thing is going to cost, what kind of burden does this place on our young men and women in uniform and most importantly, what’s the end game on this thing.”

and the ever-popular-amongst-anti-war-screamers, “benchmarks”, thrown in for good measure.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Obama is taking all this time because he’s still muddling through just exactly HOW to lose and leave and make it Bush’s fault. Changing the words, and re-defining the purpose, and downsizing the goal from victory to success to withdrawal takes time. The loss of Soldiers along the way, sadly, appears to be just the collateral damage of bad politics and bad policy and poor leadership.