Thursday, October 1, 2009

Afghanistan a Dilemma for the Ditherer-in-Chief


Sitting in an air-conditioned office within this gargantuan NATO encampment in southern Afghanistan, a U.S. officer pointed to a map of Kandahar province that indicated, with small, rectangular boxes, where soldiers deployed by President Obama earlier this year were now operating.

There were two battalions to the north of Kandahar city. Another to the far south. Canadian forces were going to swing to the west. About 5,000 new U.S. troops in all.

"But there, there and there," the officer said, pointing to towns just outside a belt where the Americans and Canadians were stationed, "and there," putting his fist on the city, which with 800,000 residents is the country's second-largest population center, "we don't have anyone."

If more forces are not forthcoming to mount counterinsurgency operations in those parts of the province, he concluded, the overall U.S. effort to stabilize Kandahar — and by extension, the rest of Afghanistan — will fail.

"We might as well pack our bags and go home . . . and just keep a few Predators flying overhead to whack the al-Qaeda guys who return," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "There's no point in doing half-measures here."

No point in doing half-measures. How about voting "present"? Will that do?

As Obama and senior members of his national security team plot the way forward in Afghanistan following Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's assessment, and in anticipation of the general's expected request for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the war, the starkest choices may be the president's best options. The most dangerous course, according to some military strategists and diplomats in Afghanistan, is what Obama often gravitates toward: the middle ground.

The Ditherer-in-Chief hasn't been able to live up to his campaign rhetoric. Now, faced with defections from his health care takeover by the antii-war left wing of his party, Obama is faced with the choice of which campaign promise to break, while his indecision fuels more deaths in Afghanistan.

All the options Obama faces in Afghanistan are unpalatable. With Iraq, when presented with a set of troop-withdrawal timelines this year, the president took the middle way. He has shown similar instincts on health-care reform and the detention of terrorism suspects. With Afghanistan, however, that may be the most perilous path.

...Although the middle ground is often safe political terrain, it can be the riskiest spot on the battlefield.

Unfortunately, the greatest risk will not be for the man sitting behind the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, behind bullet proof glass and Secret Service guards. He might be forced to write a third memoir early. Some of the boots on the ground in Afghanistan may not be fortunate enough to be around to read it.

Hat tip Rich Lowry
Cross posted at Say Anything

1 comment:

  1. Yes the wheels are off.

    I hope president olympics is thinking about this while his carbon footprint grows completely unabated.


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