Are Obama's Af/Pak 'second thoughts' just an act to give him political cover?

At the end of the last post, I gave, for free, my domestic political analysis of the Afghanistan issue for Obama. Essentially this: politically, even if you “win” you lose. Stabilize Afghanistan, the war falls from the headlines, nobody cares anymore. You can take credit for a victory, but since it’s not going to ever look or feel like much of  victory, it’s hard to reap the political benefits. Meanwhile, the cost of achieving that potential victory–really pissing off the anti-war Democratic base, not to mention hundreds of dead GI’s–is very real. And, btw, if things don’t look like they’re improving, you’ve possibly lost your base, and your political opponents will be able to say: “Look at what a mess you made of Afghanistan!Petraeus/Romney 2012!”    

My point is that the White House is obviously weighing domestic political considerations about the war. And I’ve been somewhat perplexed about why Obama is choosing this moment to express doubts about the strategy he had set in motion in March. Christian Brose, writing over at Foreign Policy, gives us a pretty neat “thought experiment,” as he calls it, that addresses this. 

Brose wonders: could Obama’s dithering and hemming and hawing and leaking and talking be just an act of a clever politician? 

In short, would you[Obama] do everything possible to demonstrate to your base that you are not repeating the same mistakes you alleged of the last guy –rushing to war and committing thousands of lives and billions of dollars without an airtight and fully scrubbed plan to succeed? Again, yes.

And then, having demonstrated that you’ve weighed every option, explored every alternative, listened to every side, done all of this a second time, and nonetheless come to the conclusion that your commanders are right — that your strategy needs more troops and resources to succeed — having done all this, will it be any likelier that the country, let alone your antiwar base, will support your decision? Maybe.

It’s worth entertaining the possibility that Obama is doing what’s necessary to align his domestic politics before going through with an unpopular escalation. But, then, it’s far from clear that the present signs of shifting goalposts and reluctant, delayed decision-making should not be taken at face value, as the preparations to scrap the new strategy that Obama correctly laid out in March before it even has a chance to work.

Read the whole thing, as the cherry picked grafs above don’t do it complete justice. It jibes with what I think is going to happen, too–after Obama is done his Hamlet act, he’s going to give the generals what they want.

UPDATE: The great Joe Galloway posits another lose-lose proposition here, but thinks Obama should take his time.

About michaelhastings

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