Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama: War Is Still Hell

In February, President Obama authorized 17,000 additional troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. At the time, the Pentagon wanted 30,000 more soldiers, but the president said that he would revisit the issue later.

Later has arrived, and Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama's choice to wage war in Afghanistan, says that many more troops are needed. According to a New York Times article, McChrystal will ask for 10,000 to 45,000 additional troops.

With public support for the war on the decline, Obama faces a potentially volatile situation if he agrees to an additional troop surge. Obama, who ran as the "anti-(Iraq)War" candidate, has always advocated the rightness of the war in Afghanistan. But his liberal base has begun to question the war. According to recent polls, a slight majority of the country believes that the war has not been worth the costs. These numbers do not bode well for decisions to prolong the operation into its ninth year.

The Hard and Bitter Truth
On a more human touch, Bob Herbert's latest column reminds us that war is still hell. I particularly found the following passage of "The Hard and Bitter Truth" moving:
A friend of mine. . .sent me an e-mail about a young serviceman in civilian clothes whom she and her husband noticed as he talked on a public telephone in the Atlanta airport last week. He was 19 or 20 years old and quite thin. His clothes and his shoes were worn, my friend said, but the thing she noticed most “was the sadness in his eyes and his sweet demeanor.”

The young man was speaking to his mom in a voice that was quite emotional. My friend recalled him saying, “We’re about to board for Oklahoma for the training before we move out. I didn’t want to bother Amber at work, so please tell her I called if you don’t think it will upset her too much. . . .I miss you all so much and love you, and I just don’t know how I’ll get through this.”

At the end of the call, the serviceman had tears in his eyes and my friend said she did, too. She wrote in the e-mail: “I stood up and wished him good luck, and he smiled the sweetest smile that has haunted me ever since" (ellipses in original text).

Read the full column here: The Hard and Bitter Truth.


Kansas City said...

Obama and democrats were never sincere in supporting the war in Afghanistan. They just used it to strengthen their attack on Bush about Iraq. Democrats will never stick it outin Afghanistan.

Whether paying the price to win in Afghanistan is the correct approach is highly debatable, but the hypocrisy of Obama and the democrats is a disgrace.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

KC: I have seen that argument, but I don't buy it. Afganistan - unlike Iraq - had almost unanimous support in Congress, and almost uniform support among voters. I think you have the argument reversed. I believe Obama's opposition to Iraq was overstated. I believe that had he been in the Senate, he would have voted for both wars.

Now, public support for Afganistan is waning. Only 51 percent of the public believes that war was worth the expense. With numbers like that, you can expect a lot of people to leave this wagon.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS: I also believe that the "hesitation" is classic Obama. He will "study" the matter and then approve additional troops.

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