Monday, September 21, 2009


A number of you didn't agree with me when I said a while back that Republicans wouldn't attack Obama from the left on Afghanistan, even though piling on in conjunction with liberal critics would help them achieve their goal of Obama's destruction. I said -- and I still believe -- that they're too locked into a narrative in which Democrats can only be "Kumbaya"-singing hippies in foreign-policy matters; cynical as they may be, they just can't pivvot that much. (I'm not sure they really are all that cynical about their belief system -- I think they really do believe Democrats and liberals are pure evil, for the reasons they've memorized from Rand and Rush and Reagan.)

Well, now it's clear that the righties may not have to attack Obama from the left on Afghanistan. Now there's a line of attack from their own side. Spencer Ackerman on today's big Washington Post story:

The Washington Post's headline -- "McChrystal: More Forces Or 'Mission Failure'" -- does what the persons who leaked Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghanistan strategy review evidently wanted to do: box President Obama in to a static request for more U.S. troops and dare him to refuse his chosen commander’s recommendations.... There's going to be pressure on Obama to simply accede to any request for more troops, and the media will frame the request, and Obama's decision, through that prism....

Basically, that's the message we're getting from the shadow Republican government: that the choice is escalation or appeasement. Here's ex-McCain blogger Michael Goldfarb for The Weekly Standard:

...It's probably not a coincidence that the McChrystal report leaked just as Obama looked like he was going wobbly on his commitment to the war effort.

(Editor's note: Hunh?)

Democrats on the Hill are already threatening to obstruct funding for additional U.S. forces -- Pelosi, Levin, and Murtha among them -- and Obama was skeptical of the need for more U.S. forces on the Sunday shows yesterday....

Obama may be trying to appease the left wing of his own party with a very public show of reluctance to add additional forces to the fight, but the administration has already deployed at least 22,000 additional U.S. troops since his inauguration. The previous commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan had requested 20,000 to 30,000 additional forces before Obama was even sworn-in. Obama sent 17,000 more troops in the spring, keeping a campaign promise but setting himself up for what Senator McCain said at the time would be "a Lyndon Johnson style of incrementalism." Indeed, Obama sent 4,000 more troops in June. Now McChrystal is set to request yet more forces in order to fulfill a need that was long ago identified by General McKiernan.

...Obama is slow-walking the troop increase for political reasons, even as it seems likely that he will, in the end, do the right thing and send the necessary reinforcements.

Translation: We think he's going to do the right thing ... but if he doesn't, if he doesn't click his heels and say "Yessir" to his own general, he's an appeaser even with all the troops he's sent. It's not escalation, it's "a Lyndon Johnson style of incrementalism." More war = less war (or at least inadequate war).

It would be so much easier, in some ways, for the Republicans to rediscover their party's past skepticism about foreign adventures; then they could join the left in tossing Obama an anvil if the Afghanistan waters rise around him. But they just can't do it. They believe the sandal-wearing-hippie cliche too much. That rehetoric isn't just for effect.

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