Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small Change for a Worn-Out War

The President’s remodeling in our Cash for Clunkers struggle reaches the salesroom with all the dings and dents of a ten-year-old lemon that has exhausted the patience of buyers who have spent almost half a trillion dollars keeping it on the road.

“The goal that we seek is achievable,” he says, “and can be expressed simply: no safe-haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies. We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.

“That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures--one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.”

Does anyone really believe that is going to happen in 2012, 2014 or ever?

The vaunted Obama rationality once again fails him on a major issue, leading to a split-the-difference formula as self-defeating as his decision two years ago to ram through a misshapen version of health care reform when he might have backed off and concentrated on bolstering the economy instead.

Barack Obama, for all his idealism, has shown a tin ear for managing big Change. Just as the monstrous abortion of health care reform in 2009 is now a Pyrrhic victory that endangers his reelection, so is the new Afghanistan drawdown a bad compromise that few close observers understand and hardly any want. Both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing it.

The timeline of his ups and downs over America’s longest and most frustrating war in history suggests a President making intellectual decisions about an enterprise that he knows in his bones has been flawed from the start and that no amount of tinkering can fix.

How else to explain the stop-and-go Surge that is now coming and going without any basic change in propping up a corrupt partner in an unwinnable war, that will keep costing American lives and money with little hope of anything tangible to show for it?

One goal of the President’s almost everyone will support--that we concentrate on “nation-building here at home.” Why do we have to wait so long to start?

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