Obama's "hip fake"

05/25/2011 02:50 pm ET

If this was a football game, and sadly it's not, what President Obama did in his speech on the war in Afghanistan would be called a "hip fake": A player gets the ball, feints in one direction to make the defenders think he's coming their way, then runs in the exact opposite direction. Thus his speech can only be viewed as a exit strategy disguised as a troop increase. He feinted toward the hawks, but really intends to run the other way.

Obama will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan knowing that it's not enough to turn the tide in 18 months or 18 years. But, to put it bluntly, he's got to do it to show that he's a tough guy. Then when the so-called surge is shown to be not working because the Karzai government is so corrupt and inept we will say, "See, we tried out best, but we're going home." Meanwhile, a lot of people, Americans and Afghans, will get killed.

Obama got boxed in by the military, and specifically General McChrystal. McChrystal's mouthing off when he did was grounds for him being fired, but by then it was too late. Obama knew that he's face a firestorm from the right and all those chickenhawks in Congress who want more war. If Obama was Truman and more in control of the government--let's face it, he's still the new guy on the block--he'd have had McChrystal's head .

But there's a larger problem for the Democrats. None of those who wanted to run for president from 2001 on, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, dared buck George Bush's war policy when it applied to Iraq. They knew that if they did, they would be labeled "soft on terrorism" and have no chance at all of winning the Democratic nomination in either 2004 or 2008. Sadly, a lot of our politics is based on mindless macho delusions at home and abroad. Obama avoided this conundrum by not being in the Senate for those early war votes, but he got caught up in the same dilemma this time around.

So now, we watch as President Obama takes the only way out he thinks he can, by faking a recommitment to a war in the form of a 30,000 troop increase, but at the same charting an exit strategy which in effect will blame the Karzi government for not stepping up to the plate. No one believes that the current regime in Afghanistan will even remotely try to do that. Why should they? It's what happens when we want it more than they do, and that's the tragedy of this war.