Barack Obama had better prepare himself for just as much skepticism on Afghanistan at home as he got from Europe. Obama wants $75 billion more allocated for the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but his own caucus in the House appears to be balking. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) called Obama’s plans “embarrassingly naive”, and may put Obama in Bush territory on the wars — looking for Republican cover (via Jim Geraghty):
Mr. Obama is expected to seek congressional approval of $75.5 billion for the wars, perhaps as soon as Thursday. The issue is already raising tensions on Capitol Hill, especially among liberals who are sympathetic to the president’s broader agenda but voice concerns about his timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and his plans to beef up forces in Afghanistan.
“I can’t imagine any way I’d vote for it,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat and leader in the 77-member congressional Progressive Caucus. It would be her first major break with this White House.
Ms. Woolsey fears the president’s plan for Iraq would leave behind a big occupation force. She is also concerned about the planned escalation in Afghanistan. “I don’t think we should be going there,” she said.
Similar sentiments echo across the House. Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) said he fears Afghanistan could become a quagmire. “I just have this sinking feeling that we’re getting deeper and deeper into a war that has no end,” he said.
Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) dismissed Mr. Obama’s plans as “embarrassingly naive,” and suggested that the president is being led astray by those around him. “He’s the smartest man in American politics today,” Rep. Conyers said. “But he occasionally gets bad advice and makes mistakes. This is one of those instances.”
The WSJ points out that Obama routinely voted against such funding requests while a member of the Senate, which one might argue made him even more naive then than now. For instance, Obama campaigned strongly against the surge strategy in Iraq and the increase in troop levels, which was proven “embarrassingly naive” when the strategy worked. Obama has yet to actually say the words “I was wrong,” but his commitment to a lasting presence in Iraq and a stronger effort in Afghanistan is a de facto admission that he — and Conyers, and every other critic in Congress — was dead wrong about it.
Obama can count on Republican support for the funding, but there aren’t as many Republicans on Capitol Hill as there used to be. Obama will need at least some of his Democrats to support the spending plans that Obama used to criticize himself. In order to get that, some Democrats want to hear an exit strategy — apparently something other than victory, which is what Obama’s been proclaiming as his primary objective.
Will Obama provide timetables for withdrawal in exchange for his funding? If he does, will Republicans hold out and risk all of the funding in order to keep the US looking for victory rather than escape? Obama finds himself in exactly the same spot as his predecessor, George W. Bush, and may have to resort to the same hardball with Congress to get what he wants. I hope he’s up to the task.