Michael Steele: Afghanistan is a "war of Obama's choosing"

It’s been, what, ten weeks since his last gaffe? Let’s be fair: He was overdue.

“Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” he said. “But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?”

Do I need to run through the problems with this or are we all on the same page? Afghanistan invasion was actually … ordered by Bush … nine years ago, in response to 9/11 … and was supported by none other than Michael Steele as recently as last December. Everyone up to speed? Okay, here’s the RNC spin:

The RNC said that Steele did not say the troops should not be in Afghanistan, instead that he was calling for a better war strategy.

“The chairman clearly supports our troops but believes that success of the war effort in Afghanistan requires the ongoing support of the American people,” RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said. “The responsibility for building and maintaining that strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the president. Like so many Americans, Chairman Steele wants to hear an explanation from President Obama on what his strategy is for winning the war in Afghanistan. The Petraeus hearings were an opportunity – a missed opportunity – to do that. Instead, all we hear from the president is criticism of his predecessor for doing exactly the same thing.”

Yeah, that’s a valiant effort by Heye but (a) it doesn’t really address what Steele said and (b) the Petraeus hearings were clear enough. We’re going to continue to follow a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan in hopes of turning the public against the Taliban while building up Afghan security forces to the point where they can take over. It’s not a strategy that’s likely to succeed, perhaps, but then that wasn’t really Steele’s complaint.

Perhaps unsatisfied with Heye’s attempt at spin, Steele himself put out a new statement this afternoon:

“There is no question that America must win the war on terror,” Steele said. “During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.”

If a “land war in Afghanistan” is a fool’s errand, why give the troops any support to continue it? Again, he’s not really addressing what he said earlier.

Bill Kristol’s had enough:

You are, I know, a patriot. So I ask you to consider, over this July 4 weekend, doing an act of service for the country you love: Resign as chairman of the Republican party…

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

Two grand ironies to this clusterfark. One: It’s high-larious to see the idiots at the DNC turning super-hawk on Steele for wanting to “walk away from the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job” and for daring to “undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement.” After year upon year of screeching at Bush over every setback in Iraq, with Democrats as prominent as Harry Reid declaring the war lost, the sheer balls needed to call him out in those terms are astounding. And am I mistaken or aren’t there an awful lot of liberals who oppose the war and might not care to have the DNC describing them in those same terms? Good work, hypocrites: You’ve done your job of distracting attention today from our pitiful president’s pitiful economy. Make sure to bookmark their statement too, because we’ll be revisiting it — repeatedly — next year when The One inevitably gives his order to start a massive drawdown.

Two: This is actually a rare case of Steele saying something stupid that arguably — I stress, arguably — makes the public better disposed to the GOP. Hawks may hate it, but (a) 58 percent of the public supports Obama’s withdrawal timeline next year and (b) prominent conservatives are growing bolder about speaking up against the war. George Will has been against it forever, of course, and just this morning Byron York hint-hinted that it’s time to go; in Congress, Ron Paul (of course) and Jason Chaffetz are big-name Republicans who oppose continuing the mission. It’ll be awfully interesting to see who else comes out of the woodwork in December, when the Pentagon conducts its review of operations, and then again next July, when Obama has to decide on his next step. Exit question: Is Steele simply ahead of the curve of the Beltway GOP?

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023