“First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history.”
-- President Obama in a Dec. 1, 2009 speech at the United States Military Academy announcing one of his troop surges in Afghanistan.
Here’s one way for President Obama to shore up his declining numbers: The “zero option” in Afghanistan.
And according to the reporting today, that’s just what it sounds like: yanking the troops out of Afghanistan completely rather than a phased drawdown to a small training and peacekeeping force over the next 18 months.
Even in his worst moments with the American electorate, the president has been either steady or soaring on foreign affairs. Since he won the presidency as a freshman senator largely thanks to his early opposition to the war in Iraq, it stands to reason that facing the worst days of his term so far, the president would revert to what has worked before.
In addition to a host of domestic woes, Obama is facing an amazing array of international and national security problems.
Aside from the creep-out factor from the revelation that Obama has dramatically expanded the domestic spying programs he deplored when his predecessor was in charge, there’s also the fact that even with the biggest Big Brother in history, the government was unable to prevent the first terror bombing on U.S. soil since 9/11.
And then there’s the drones. Obama is often mocked (albeit gently) on the left for being the drone-warrior president. His government deploys flying killer robots around the globe and, as his nominee for FBI director will testify today, makes increasing use of drone eyes in the skies here at home.
The big problem right now, though, is that his doctrine for the Middle East has run out of gas. Obama was hoping to see Muslim theocracy be a gateway to Western-style liberalism in the region. Starting with the raid last year by Libyan Islamists on a U.S. diplomatic outpost (and the subsequent cover-up by the administration) things have been falling apart. Riots and unrest following abuses by the Obama-backed Islamist government in Egypt, the rise of barbarism in Syria, Iraq teetering on the brink of theocracy and an empowered Iran would seem to suggest the Obama Doctrine is reaching terminal velocity.
The fact that Obama is sticking with the junta now controlling Egypt suggests a tacit admission of that much.
With all these problems bearing down – to say nothing of the rough treatment Obama is getting from other world leaders – the best thing Obama has going for him on foreign policy and national security these days is the expected end of the 12-year American effort in Afghanistan.
A war that was once cast by Democrats, including Obama, as the virtuous one -- the one neglected by George W. Bush in the name of the occupation of Iraq – has become a political albatross for Obama. Despite the lost lives of more than 2,200 Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, the nation is moving backwards still. All that nation building hasn’t left behind much of a nation.
While calling for a full withdrawal rather than the completion of his own strategy of a double-surge followed by a gradual, scheduled retreat would seem to be an admission of failure on Obama’s part, it’s the kind of failure Americans would quickly forgive. Having men and women die for another two years to fight in a narrow effort to make things marginally better in a bad place wasn’t a winner.
It would also mark something of a broken promise to the generals whose support Obama obtained for his surge-and-retreat strategy. But they’re paid to take orders. And for his two previous favorite Afghan generals – Stanley McCrystal and David Petraeus – Obama doesn’t need to worry too much about public scoldings. They’ve got their own PR problems to sort out.
The coverage today of Obama’s trial balloon on a “zero option” focuses on Afghan politics and Obama’s effort to put the squeeze on that country’s president, Hamid Karzai, but don’t forget that Obama’s own problems are very much at play.
With his base feeling brokenhearted that “The One” is a drone warrior, eavesdropper and junta backer, cutting short his own Afghan experiment might help Obama reverse his slide in the polls and restore some of his mojo for the weeks of struggle with Congress that lie ahead.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“So, what we're going to end up with is a bill that is going to be implemented because they're going to hope people go on the exchanges and the subsidies with all the fraud and abuse, and once people are getting that we're going to have to raise taxes hugely as a way to cover it as it is done in Canada and in Britain.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.