Why Would Anyone Want This Job?
It’s just not a lot of fun being President of the United States right now. I cannot imagine a bigger laundry list of problems, related to both the economy and foreign policy. But it is now official: Barack Obama owns all of it.
In his somber address at West Point last night, the President charted an intricately calibrated strategy for pressing the war in Afghanistan. Part of it is designed to build his credibility with the Pentagon establishment by giving the Generals pretty much all they want- for right now- basically a year and a half to put up or shut up. And there’s the timeline that sets July, 2011 as the date for the start of withdrawal of U.S. military forces- obviously intended to appease those wary of an open-ended and protracted conflict.
He seemed to succeed in making just about everyone unhappy. From the left, there is serious disappointment and there will be significant opposition to support of the war effort. People who know this stuff, like the Washington Post’s Dan Balz , are saying the President may get half of his own party to go along with funding of his version of a “surge.” Even Illinois Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin, Obama’s closest ally in the Senate is balking. He notes the President took a long time to make this decision and now he will too; he says he needs to think about it.
The White House will get nowhere in Congress without some Republican support and we all know how easy that is to find. As voiced by the President’s 2008 Republican opponent, John McCain, the new plan is ok- except for the part about leaving. He’s strictly opposed to setting the timetable for withdrawal. But hawkish Republicans are the least of the President’s political worries. Polls are finding independent voters increasingly dovish, turning against the effort in Afghanistan and much of it on financial grounds- how the heck can we afford it?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being dispatched overseas to win support of wavering NATO allies. They’re supposed to be providing 10,000 additional troops. Britain says they’ll be putting in 500. Germany says it will wait for an international conference later this year before deciding. Our allies don’t seem real thrilled about helping out either.
And then there’s the not so small matter of the people of Afghanistan. Polling suggests support for the Taliban is less than 10%, but the corrupt central government has no credibility at all. MSNBC military analyst, Col. Jack Jacobs makes the point that the portion of the Obama strategy that depends on turning the war over to Afghans has a chance- if – the U.S. deals less with the Hamid Karzai government and more with local leaders.
Part of the Obama plan is supposed to involve a civilian surge too; the hearts and minds piece of the puzzle. The U.S. is going to have to make significant improvements in Afghanistan’s infrastructure so there’s a year and half to invest in nation-building and have something to show for it.
So let’s sum it all up: The President will find prosecuting the war in Afghanistan will be difficult, getting out of Iraq remains a challenge, the real problem remains Pakistan, an unstable government that is home to both a nuclear arsenal and Osama Bin Laden and meantime, record unemployment continues to wreak havoc at home, health care reform seems nowhere near to being settled, our own infrastructure could use some form of nation-building and the polar ice caps continue to melt.
Why was it again he wanted this job?