Nov 16 2008
Here is how it works: for the first two years of a presidency that inherits a war, you can keep calling it the war begun by your predecessor. After that, win, lose or draw, you own it. Nixon found this out when he took the Vietnam War from Johnson. Obama is going to have to disappoint many of his peace-nik supporters and put more force into the war, and fight it even more vigorously, or he is going to have to just pull out and blame the loss on Bush. What he can’t do is just sit there in the status quo.
If the Afghan war isn’t won, or clearly about to be, in the next two years, and he isn’t deep into pulling out, the “quagmire” will be his, and only die-hard supporters will buy that it’s still Bush’s war. On the other hand, if he’s pulling out by then, even with a loss, he can probably salvage the good opinion of many of his supporters, those who don’t think much about the future of terrorist attacks on the USA, and are happy to lose any old way, as proof of American inferiority, which excites them.
NATO’s impatience with the Afghan war, and the failure of non-English speaking NATO members to really fight in it (as opposed to just providing logistical support, etc.), is probably not going to be curable by Obamian rhetorical style, regardless of cheering throngs on his grand tour of Europe. Obama will discover the exact limits of being “well regarded by the world”, which does not produce much actual action, but merely a lessening in bilious criticism.
Does Obama have the stomach to WIN the war? I don’t know. I hope so. Anything else is bound to kill LOTS more Americans, sooner or later.