President Obama has outlined a plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan that pleases no one. His long term strategy appears to be compromise. This approach will bring him either a second term or teach him the lesson of Bush the Elder, our last one-term president.
President Obama has outlined his plan for gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan after ten years of combat started in response to the attacks on America of September 11, 2001. His proposal to bring home 30,000 before the end of the year and end America’s combat role there by 2014 has received mixed reviews, few of which have been positive. His plan has been criticized from both the Left and the Right, putting him in the difficult position of being able to please no one. In fact, it seems that Obama’s compromises throughout his presidency have only alienated his allies in the Democratic Party and given his political rivals in the GOP additional fodder upon which to base their campaigns to unseat him. One has to wonder if the electorate wants this middle-of-the-road navigator at the helm of the federal government, or, as many pundits now claim, the American people elected someone who projected a “fired up” image during the campaign but who has let them down now that he occupies the Oval Office.
In respect to Afghanistan, President Obama’s stated his goal to “…responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.” To be sure, the plan outlined in his June 22, 2011 speech fails to live up to his campaign promise to bring all of America’s forces home from Afghanistan by the end of 2011. After this first phase is complete, there will still be 67,000 troops in Afghanistan. Another phase is expected to be complete by September, 2012, which will leave up to 50,000 in that nation by the time the election takes place. For many Democrats, this drawdown process is too slow, leaving too many Americans in harm’s way while using valuable financial resources that could be applied to deficit reduction here at home. For many Republicans, the process is a recipe for disaster, similar to our exit from Vietnam, where the enemy simply overran the capital of the nation US forces were defending after US troops pulled out. Obama’s critics fear that Kabul will be the next Saigon, leaving the nation in the hands of Taliban and US losses in blood and treasure in vain. The specter of Vietnam has haunted not just Obama, but every president since Gerald Ford.
Pundits on the Left, specifically the talking heads on MSNBC, criticize the President as “very good at talking but not very good at doing.” Pundits on the Right know the war in Afghanistan is unpopular with the American people. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans polled want the troops home sooner than later, leaving the Afghan government to fend for itself when fighting a resurgent Taliban. They also fault the President for outlining a timetable for withdrawal because it gives Al Qaeda and the Taliban an idea of how to respond to American actions. Critics of Obama’s withdrawal plan risk opposing the will of the American people, and they may turn to Obama in 2012 to finish the job that he promised to complete during his 2008 campaign.