Eat Your Vegetables, Mr. President

Posted on November 11, 2009

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It was announced today that President Obama will be considering yet another strategy for what to do in Afghanistan.  From the Wall Street Journal:

 President Barack Obama on Wednesday will consider a new compromise plan for adding troops to Afghanistan that would deploy 30,000 to 35,000 new forces, including as many as 10,000 military trainers, over the next year or more.

The new scenario combines reinforcements for fighting Taliban insurgents with trainers aimed at rapidly increasing the size and capabilities of Afghan troops to take on more operations themselves. It wouldn’t aim to eliminate the Taliban, but weaken it until Afghan forces can secure major population centers themselves.

This new plan will be considered alongside three other recommendations already made to President Obama by General Stanley McChrystal.  One of the recommendations McChrystal made would request  up to an additional 80,000 troops be deployed to the area.  The other scenarios request less troops, anywhere from an additional 10,000 to 40,000.  Although President Obama has had McChrystal’s requests for additional troops for over 2 months now, the president hasn’t seem to want to act on any of them.  Claiming that he doesn’t want to make any rash decisions, the President  Obama has instead, opted for a deliberate, thought-out strategy before committing to any additional troops.

But as time goes on, it seems as if the president doesn’t want to make any decision at all.   He is caught between his own campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being a war of necessity, General McChrystal’s request for more troops,  and the waning support by his own party to keep our troops there:

The issue of troop levels has put Mr. Obama in a difficult position. Gen. McChrystal has argued that tens of thousands of additional troops are needed to successfully curb the Taliban’s resurgence. But many Democratic lawmakers have signaled they don’t support such a buildup, and the American public’s support for the war has waned.

So what we get instead of a decision are trial balloons floated about possible additional troop numbers in the media, only to have to the White House insist that no numbers have been decided upon.  In essence, the administration makes it look like they’re deliberating and close to making a decision without having to make a decision at all.  Not wanting to alienate his base, from which he needs support to pass health care reform, Obama doesn’t commit to any additional troops, but still seems to be taking action, in some form, to keep critics at bay.

The scenario is akin to a child at the dinner table who doesn’t want to eat his vegetables.   He will push his peas around the plate, separating them, mashing them, etc…. in order to make it look like he’s actually eaten some without having done so.   The child hopes that if he is convincing enough, he may be pardoned from the table without having to eat any of the vegetables he finds so distasteful.

But in this scenario, a decision left unmade long enough, will be a decision in itself as the country of Afghanistan seems to slip slowly back towards Taliban control. 

The president needs to make a decision and eat his vegetables.