Obama's Afghanistan Gamble

I am a dyed in the wool confirmed liberal. I lived through the protests over the Vietnam War and I participated in them. I am very wary about military action in foreign lands and the risks of those actions. It was with that perspective that I watched and listened to President Omaba's speech on Tuesday night. The first part sounded like it could have been written by a speechwrite for President George W. Bush. I thought that Obama's team must have found a special potionin the Eisenhower Executive Office building that suddenly makes all presidential speechwriters sound alike.

Although the speech began by sounding like President George W. Bush I thought the President Obama's speech was great and reasonably convincing. If I hadn't been around Washington and people in the military I might have cheered.

However, the president is taking a huge gamble. If his plan does not work he puts his own re-election in danger. He is taking his military advisers at their word that there will be a halt to the advancing Taliban. He must have been told by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that President Karzai can clean up his act and end the corruption that is rife in his government. For the sake of the United States I hope Obama is right on both fronts.

It is rare when writer and fellow Fox News contributor Judith Miller and I agree on something. But on Tuesday afternoon when we appeared together on FoxNews.com's "The Strategy Room" to talk about our feelings about Obama's plan for Afghanistan, we both cited the same the source -- the U.S. Military Special Ops people -- to support our views. The Special Ops people say that with these troop numbers, given the geography and tribal nature of the region, the current war is unwinnable. The Russians couldn't win there and they were willing to do things that the our military would not consider ethical -- even in times of war.

The other problem in Afghanistan is the timetable. Although the president did not guarantee that all our troops would be gone in eighteen months just announcing the possibility has already had repercussions for us. One possibility is that the Taliban will simply wait us out. The second possibility is that as radio talk show host Steve Bowers says, the president is in danger of a "Mission Accomplished" problem. In other words, Obama could find that quote coming back to haunt him on the campaign trail in a re-election bid if our commitment in Afghanistan it is not successful and we must stay longer in the region.

Already there are anti-war protests getting started and liberal members of Congress are talking about making sure that the Afghan troop build up is not funded. There is zero chance they'll be able to stop the funding of the president's plan but I hope this Congress will insist on verifiable benchmarks. If they don't, we might have a reprise of the divide we saw over Iraq only with a Democrat in the Oval Office. As they say in India "same, same, only different".

Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.