A new poll shows a substantial majority of Americans have resigned themselves to the reality of our nation’s perpetual foreign wars. They don’t like it, but they see it happening and know there is nothing they can do about it. The poll, conducted by Clarus Research Group, showed that 68 percent of us agree with idea that we won’t either win or lose the war in Afghanistan, now eight years long, but will instead just remain there.
The image of flies and flypaper again swirls in my head, just as it did at the time of the invasion of Iraq. We invaded these places and now we’re stuck there, and President Barack Obama is likewise stuck, not on flypaper, but on the horns of a dilemma: Does he send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, as his area commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has publicly demanded, or does he change strategies a la Joe Biden and rely more on special ops and drones to harass the Taliban and kill whatever members of al-Qaeda we can find?
The news is filled with stories about this showdown and the political consequences of what the president may decide to do. There are some calls for Mr. Obama to fire Mr. McChrystal for acting like Gen. Douglas MacArthur did during the Korean War, when he challenged the strategic decisions of President Harry Truman. The counterpoint, as is always the case, comes from people who say the civilian leadership should stay out of the way and let the generals wage war however they decide. That’s more or less the position of the Republicans in Congress. That this subservience to the Pentagon would make the United States a sort of gargantuan Honduras doesn’t seem to bother these people.
Republican and Democratic members of Congress met with Mr. Obama at the White House this week to deliver their exhortations, all of them promising to back whatever decision is reached, and the president saying he’ll need some time to make his decision. That was to be expected, considering that it took him eight months to figure out what kind of dog to get for his daughters. The one thing he has promised – and this certainly feeds the public’s resignation about the war – is that he won’t, under any circumstance, withdraw from Afghanistan.