Time for Obama to get behind the consensus on Afghanistan

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, has made a request for between 30,000 and 40,000 additional troops. He asserts that without this troop infusion, we run a very real risk of failing to meet our military objectives in Afghanistan.

McChrystal is not alone in this request. Gen. David Petraeus, the brilliant architect and manager of the United States’ successful “surge” in Iraq, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen have also indicated that more troops will be needed.

Avoiding failure on this front is a non-negotiable. Such a failure would be catastrophic to American interests at home and abroad. Such a scenario would likely include a revitalized Taliban and al-Qaida that are ceded strategic territory in which to thrive, train and plot.

President Obama, it’s time to listen to your field generals over liberal Washington politicos, just as you did in February when you approved an initial increase of 21,000 troops.

There is no doubt that sending our brave men and women into harm’s way is one of the most difficult decisions a president has to make. No one should criticize the president for taking a few weeks to thoroughly review this latest request.

However, I am concerned that the president is weighing not only the military calculations, but that, due to his political party’s internal politics, he is also being forced to weigh the intra-Democratic Party political consequences of his decisions at a time when liberal voters, interest groups and political operations are gearing up for the critical 2010 midterm elections.

Obama owes much of his success in the primary elections to his early opposition to the Iraq War, and the loyalty that gave him from the anti-war left. Now some of that block are trying to collect on a conflict where not long ago President Obama told us, “The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos.”

Vice President Joe Biden has also been in his ear opposing the troop level recommendations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the lead Democratic senator on the Armed Services Committee have both stated their strong opposition to any additional troops.

There are no easy decisions when waging a war. Right now though, in the 70 days since Gen. McChrystal has been in command, President Obama has personally talked with him  only once, and I can guess how that stacks up against conversations with his party’s vocal left wing.

There may not be easy decisions, but the best decision our president could make right now is to turn that ratio inside out so he can start making the right decisions to win this war and bring our troops home with victory.

Michael Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org).

 

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