Keeping to the President’s Right on Afghanistan
posted at 2:49 pm on September 7, 2009 by CK MacLeod
In an open letter signed by a broad swath of conservatives and fellow travelers – from old warhorses like Robert McFarlane to younger ones like Sarah Palin – the non-isolationist right lays out a unity position on the war in Afghanistan, with an eye to requests for more troops expected soon from Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Unlike George Will and other war skeptics across the political spectrum, the members of this Afghanistan victory caucus intend to 1) stay to the President’s right, and 2) stick close to the generals – a key paragraph:
Mr. President, you have put in place the military leadership and sent the initial resources required to begin bringing this war to a successful conclusion. The military leadership has devised a strategy that will reverse the errors of previous years, free Afghans from the chains of tyranny, and keep America safe. We call on you to fully resource this effort, do everything possible to minimize the risk of failure, and to devote the necessary time to explain, soberly and comprehensively, to the American people the stakes in Afghanistan, the route to success, and the cost of defeat.
The letter is unqualified in its support for the President’s Afghanistan decisions, up until now, but lays out a basis for potential future criticism, even separation. If Obama fails to display greater public leadership (“devote the necessary time to explain…”), if he gives in to any significant extent to those who have already turned on the war and are calling for withdrawal timetables or even immediate pullout, and if the situation in Afghanistan and beyond begins to deteriorate, support of this type could quickly turn into fierce opposition.
An early turning point could be a decision by the President to give McChrystal less than he says he needs. In comments otherwise highly supportive of the Administration’s war policies, Senator McCain also recently warned against splitting the difference – reflexively choosing the middle rather than the best option for matching resources to tasks. Yet every deployment or appropriation beyond what has already been committed will increase pressure in the other direction from the left, the isolationist/defeatist right, and a war-weary, domestically focused public. It’s widely believed that such pressure has already been building within the White House – as McCain put it, “not from the President but from people around him.”
The dangers for the President are obvious, but whether there will be much political profit for conservatives in this kind of positioning, now or later, will depend on unpredictable factors. At the very least, however, it enables the right to maintain consistency both on the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror, and on long-standing commitments to win the battles we fight, support the troops in the field, and provide the widest possible latitude to military professionals in adapting means to ends.
cross-posted at Zombie Contentions