There is a right way and a wrong way to express anger at President Obama for committing more troops to Afghanistan. This is the wrong way (from Tristero at Hullabaloo):
If the Democratic party today doesn't have viable candidates who are prepared to oppose this crazy policy, it sure as hell will have them two elections hence. I realize that opposing the election of Democrats at a time when the opposition party has literally gone off the deep end puts this country at serious risk of another extreme rightwing takeover. But I don't think liberals have much choice but to take that risk. We are talking about potentially thousands upon thousands of human deaths for an utterly pointless war. This liberal - and I'm hardly the only one - can neither support nor excuse what is now officially the Obama/Afghan War.
Similarly, Garry Wills writes at the New York Review of Books blog that "I cannot vote for any Republican. But Obama will not get another penny from me, or another word of praise, after this betrayal."
It's not that I support Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan -- far from it, I am intensely skeptical of our ability to find a lasting solution in the country -- but I'm not surprised by the decision either. Not only has Obama been a long-time supporter of the war in Afghanistan, but he has consistently voiced his support for committing more resources to the effort. In July of last year, he gave his big "national security" speech, where he outlined his plans for Afghanistan and Iraq. Here is a brief excerpt:
In fact – as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain – the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That’s why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions – with fewer restrictions – from NATO allies. I will focus on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary, with more resources and incentives for American officers who perform these missions. Just as we succeeded in the Cold War by supporting allies who could sustain their own security, we must realize that the 21st century’s frontlines are not only on the field of battle – they are found in the training exercise near Kabul, in the police station in Kandahar, and in the rule of law in Herat.
This isn't a one time thing either; throughout the speech Obama calls for more troops and more resources to be directed towards the war in Afghanistan. The simple fact here is that Obama has done exactly what he said he would, and it's ridiculous for liberals to claim that they've been "betrayed." No, they just haven't been paying attention.
Beyond that, for as objectionable as this decision is, liberals and progressives ought to think twice before they decide to withhold support from Democrats or actively work to sink Democratic candidates in congressional elections. Progressive change is the work of decades. It's hard, time-consuming and riddled with setbacks. And that's true even in the best of circumstances, with a Democratic Congress, revitalized grass-roots, and a president who -- his flaws notwithstanding -- is one of the best vehicles for moving a progressive agenda that we've seen in a generation. Granted, punishing the Democratic Party is emotionally satisfying, and as a matter of principle, probably the right thing to do. But giving the extreme right-wing another opportunity to control the national agenda is a tremendously dangerous thing to do.
Yes, Barack Obama's decision to double-down in Afghanistan will cost us thousands of American and Afghan lives, but frankly, that pales in comparison to the destruction we know right-wing foreign and domestic policy will cause. In a mere eight years, the right-wing was responsible for two invasions (and hundreds of thousands of lost lives), the destruction of a major American city, torture, illegal spying on American citizens, indefinite detention, and the near-total collapse of the global economy. Don't get me wrong, it's cool to be pissed at Obama -- lord knows I am -- but threatening to inflict that on the the world again is irresponsible verging on criminal.
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