President Obama laid out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan
last night in a speech at West Point. The immediate reaction was sour across the board
with conservatives and liberals alike furious that Obama had either
committed too much to the war or not enough. But now that pundits have
taken a few hours to reflect on the administration's strategy and
seriously consider whether or not it will work, the consensus is gone
and opinion is much more split. Here are the strongest cases for
whether Obama's strategy is likely to fail or succeed and why.
- Too Much For Too Little The New York Times's Thomas Friedman worries.
"I'd prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way
we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our
need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a
little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan," he writes.
"To now make Afghanistan part of the 'war on terrorism' -- i.e., another
nation-building project -- is not crazy. It is just too expensive, when
balanced against our needs for nation-building in America, so that we
will have the strength to play our broader global role."
- Rightfully Burdens Afghans The Washington Post's David Ignatius praises the plan.
"Obama has made the right decision: The only viable 'exit strategy'
Afghanistan is one that starts with a bang -- by adding 30,000 more
U.S. troops to secure the major population centers, so that control can
be transferred to the Afghan army and police. This transfer process,
starting in July 2011, is the heart of his strategy," he writes. "He
has defined success downward, by focusing on the ability to transfer
control to the Afghans."
- 'Correct and Courageous' The Washington Post supports it as well.
"Mr. Obama's troop decision is both correct and courageous: correct
because it is the only way to prevent a defeat that would endanger this
country and its vital interests; and courageous because he is embarking
on a difficult and costly mission that is opposed by a large part of
his own party." They write that Obama "described powerfully the threat
posed by 'violent extremism,' and said, 'it will be an enduring test of
our free society and our leadership in
the world.' With obvious reluctance but with clear-headedness, Mr.
Obama has taken a major step toward meeting that test.
- Better Than Bush's Plan The New York Times offers measured support.
"Americans have reason to be pessimistic, if not despairing, about the
war in Afghanistan," they write. But, "Over all, we found the
president's military arguments persuasive." They explain, "For far too
long -- mostly, but not only, under President George W. Bush
-- Afghanistan policy has had little direction and no accountability.
Mr. Obama started to address those problems at West Point, although the
country needs to hear more about how he intends to pay for the war and
how he will decide when Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own."
- 'Echoes of Vietnam' The New Republic's John Judis sounds the alarm.
"I don't oppose what Barack Obama plans to do in Afghanistan. I don't
know enough, and from what I know, I don't have an alternative to
propose," he writes. "What bothers me is the echo of Vietnam in 1964
and 1965. Of course,
there are differences--and Obama tried to cite them in his speech--but
the similarities are disturbing." Judis meditates on the early
Vietcong's resemblance to the Taliban, "neo-colonialism," and the
popularity of the two wars at home and with out allies. He finds little
to be optimistic about.
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