Thursday, June 23, 2011

Solomon and Obama

Back when National Lampoon magazine was still around and funny, they had a cartoon on "Great moments in justice" with two women leaving Solomon's court, each carrying a half child. The joke was that this was the worst possible result.

In his desire to render Solomonic judgment on Afghanistan, President Obama did a similar split. One side wants the troops out as soon as possible. The other wants them to remain as long as the Taliban is active. The President compromised by promising to withdraw around a third of the troops by the next election.

Honestly, the President is in a tough position. There is no evidence that the Taliban will ever give up or be totally defeated. The war will be ten years old this Fall with no real end in sight. The President's strongest supporters are expecting him to wrap the war up quickly and the general public is tired of casualty reports and stories about separated families.

On the other hand, a quick pullout will likely throw away the gains of the last two years (when Obama, in an imitation of Solomon, sent half the troops that the Pentagon requested). After insisting that Afghanistan is the "good war", Obama does not want to be the president who lost it.

A stronger president would choose sides and make his case. He could point out that we were after al Qaeda, not the Taliban. With Osama dead and al Qaeda dispersed, there is nothing to gain by a lengthy conflict with the Taliban. This is the "declare victory and go home" option. Or he could insist that Islamic extremism cannot be allowed to regain a foothold and that we will stay until Afghanistan has a strong government, no matter how long that might take.

But, Obama is a "split the difference" president so we will pull out some troops but leave a substantial force behind.

I doubt that this will help him politically. Neither side is happy with his solution.

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