Whatever else you might say about George W. Bush, he stuck to his guns in Iraq. Despite abysmally low approval ratings and mixed results from the war zone, he never betrayed a willingness to accept defeat. Will Barack Obama do the same in Afghanistan? Don’t count on it. Although he attacked Bush constantly on the campaign trail for neglecting the conflict in Afghanistan, what Obama really cares about is implementing his ambitious domestic agenda. And now the war is threatening to drain away money and political support needed to implement those domestic plans.
Look at the numbers: a Washington Post / ABC News poll this week finds that 51% of the public thinks the war in Afghanistan is “not worth fighting,” with the trend-line pointing to a further erosion of support in the future. And look at where opposition to the war is concentrated — among the liberals and moderates in Obama’s electoral base! Support for the war is concentrated among Republicans, who are quick to abandon the administration when almost any other policy issue comes up. Liberal blogs like the Huffington Post carry a steady diet of commentary concerning the domestic opportunity costs associated with overseas wars, warning that high military outlays will make items like healthcare reform unaffordable.
It doesn’t take much to derail the agenda of a President who won by only a 3% margin, especially when he was elected for reasons largely unrelated to his domestic plans. But because he is so committed to those plans, Obama is actually in a weaker position to sustain the war effort than Bush was. Bush didn’t need to worry about losing support for his healthcare plan, because he basically didn’t have one. Or an energy plan. Or a plan for the environment. He was all about the global war on terror, which Congress came to dislike but was loathe to deprive of funding. President Obama has a trickier political landscape to negotiate, and his advisors are no doubt telling him that life would be a lot easier if all those American lives and dollars weren’t being expended to pursue the improbable goal of democracy in Afghanistan.
Find Archived Articles: