(With a tip of the hat to Texas populist Jim Hightower for his book entitled "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos".)
No matter what the issue, Barack Obama seems genetically programmed to split the difference and seek the exact middle of the road. It may have worked while mediating debates between leftwing and rightwing students on the Harvard Law Review. But it doesn't work when trying to govern a country, revive an economy, regulate banks, halt global warming, or reform health care. And it especially doesn't work when it comes to military strategy.
General McChrystal asked for 40,000 more troops to bolster his counterinsurgency strategy to create a stable Afghanistan. So Barack Obama gave him 30,000 troops, instead. Ok, he didn't split the difference 50/50 this time. He went 75/25. So now we're driving down the middle of the left-hand lane on a potholed 2-lane highway in Afghanistan, waiting to crash head-on into deadly IED's planted by indigenous Taliban guerillas who've been fighting a civil war for 35 years and will be there long after the last American is gone. Of course generals always want more troops. So what will happen in a year or 18 months when the generals says we need another 40,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 troops to finish the job? Will President Obama come to some arithmetic compromise again?
At the same time as Obama tried to pacify the military-industrial complex and his Republicans critics by giving them ¾ of the troops the generals requested, he tried to split the difference and pacify his Democratic base by promising he'll start withdrawing them in 18 months. But what happens in 18 months if the Taliban is undefeated, Al Qaeda is still holed-up in Pakistan, and Afghanistan remains a hotbed of instability? Will he bring the troops home anyway? Or will he hunker down for a long war?
If, as President Obama argues, the stability of Afghanistan is vital to America's national security, then we should be sending as many troops as it takes for as long as it takes to achieve victory. General Petraeus' own manual on counterinsurgency says that to succeed, you need 20-25 soldiers for every 1,000 members of the population, which would require a force of 400,000-500,000 troops. So what will slightly more than 100,000 US troops by next summer accomplish, before they start to be drawn down the following summer? Obama's middle of the road strategy is just a recipe for failure, a Democratic version of Donald Rumsfeld's Iraq war on the cheap.
If our national security is really at stake, then President Obama should be advocating a strategy for victory, not some half-way measures to send too few troops for too little time to finish the job. To get enough troops, that would mean drastically increasing the size of America's armed forces, reinstituting the draft, and increasing taxes to pay for it.
If Obama isn't willing to do that, then he's just sending the flower of America's youth to sacrifice their lives for nothing. In 18 months, some of the cadets Obama addressed at West Point will be dead or maimed and we'll likely be no closer to "victory". Shame on Obama!