For Obama, the Politics of War Are Tricky
(New York Times) -- by MICHAEL D. SHEAR --
...1. His base. The president’s top advisers often remind his supporters that Mr. Obama promised to withdraw from Iraq during his 2008 campaign, not from Afghanistan. Still, many of the president’s staunchest supporters saw him generally as an antiwar candidate and were surprised by his willingness in 2009 to expand the war there dramatically.
At last week’s Netroots Nation, a gathering of liberals in Minneapolis, Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, was confronted directly with questions about Afghanistan.
“What will it take to get through to the White House that we want the war ended?” one questioner asked. Mr. Pfeiffer promised that an announcement about the beginning of a withdrawal would be coming soon. But the question for Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters is whether the size of that withdrawal will be large enough.
The liberal complaints are also coming from Congress, where Democratic lawmakers like Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio have tried repeatedly — and with little success — to force the government to speed up the pace of America’s withdrawal from the Afghanistan war.
“The question is not whether we can afford to leave, the question is can we afford to stay, and I submit we cannot,” Mr. Kucinich said during a debate over the issue in March.
2. His Republican rivals. In December 2009, Mr. Obama was praised by most of his potential rivals for his decision to broaden the war in Afghanistan and increase the troop presence, with the notable exception of Representative Ron Paul, who has long opposed such interventions. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who is widely considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination, said at the time that Mr. Obama had made “the right decision” about the war.
“And, by the way, you’re noting that Republicans are not making this a political football,” Mr. Romney said on CNN at the time. “Republicans are saying, ‘Yeah, he’s done the right thing here.’”
But Mr. Romney, now an official candidate, appears to have shifted his view of the war. During a debate last week in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney said that troop decisions should be based on military realities, but he also indicated a desire to see the conflict end.
“I also think we’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation,” Mr. Romney said in comments that have earned him the ire of some conservatives. “Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban.”
That view is also echoed by Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, who is expected to enter the Republican presidential race on Tuesday. Mr. Huntsman has said he envisions a small contingent of American troops in Afghanistan to fight terrorism, but says the bulk of the forces should come home. “It’s a tribal state, and it always will be,” he told Esquire magazine. “Whether we like it or not, whenever we withdraw from Afghanistan, whether it’s now or years from now, we’ll have an incendiary situation. … Should we stay and play traffic cop? I don’t think that serves our strategic interests.”
Those comments by Mr. Obama’s potential rivals could increase the pressure on the president to announce a larger withdrawal this week...MORE...LINK