Here’s the core point that Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, George Will, and now Barack Obama can’t quite seem to understand: Failure in Afghanistan will cost much, much more than the billions spent on this surge. What was the cost to the U.S. economy of the attacks on 9/11? What will be the cost if the terrorist groups now operating in Afghanistan—the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e Taiba, as well as al Qaeda—are able to reconstitute safe havens and the next president has to send troops back in to clear them out again? It is a peculiar kind of wisdom that can only see the problems and costs of today and cannot imagine the problems and costs of tomorrow.
The argument that the cost of the surge in Afghanistan undermines our ability to address our domestic problems is especially risible coming from this president. It would be one thing if cutting back in Afghanistan were part of a sweeping deficit-reduction plan where domestic programs and entitlements were getting the axe, too. It would still be a mistake. But at least it would be consistent.
There is something appallingly cynical, however, in this president suggesting that the American fiscal crisis required overruling his military leadership and ordering a more rapid and therefore more dangerous drawdown in Afghanistan—this, after two and a half years of proposing spending on domestic programs that dwarfs the cost of the surge…
The psychological effect of Obama’s announcement may be just as damaging. The tone of the speech, the war-weariness it exhibited, combined with the unexpectedly rapid drawdown, will convince everyone in the region, and everyone in the world, that the United States can’t wait to get out, regardless of the consequences.