President Obama told Congressional leaders that he does not plan to substantially reduce forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to "just hunting terrorists there," but he hinted that he remains undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general, Stanley A. McChrystal.
The president is currently considering McChrystal's request for as many as 40,000 more troops. This debate occurs after a majority of Americans have already stated that the war is not worth fighting, and that it is not worth the cost. These facts don't seem to register with Obama. In fact, the New York Times reports that the president is getting pretty peeved at this "get out" nonsense:
Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to "dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan," as White House officials later described his remarks.
Mm'k. Why isn't this about leaving Afghanistan? According to an August Washington Post-ABC News poll, 51 percent of adults now say the war is not worth fighting. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
A serious, logical belief that the United States should leave Afghanistan is not a "straw man argument." A straw man argument is all about misrepresenting an opponent's position, but the "leaving Afghanistan" opinion isn't about manipulating the pro-Afghanistan war argument, which is that the surge theoretically -- one day -- will "work" (whatever that means.)
The "leaving Afghanistan" opinion is based on the opinion that the United States has no right to nation build in autonomous countries, and is making life hell for Afghans. "Leaving Afghanistan" is based on the reality that democracy cannot be exported to other countries. Democracy is a grassroots, populist movement that grows organically from indigenous peoples, and cannot be cultivated in some Pentagon backroom. "Leaving Afghanistan" is about fixing home before criticizing the neighbors. America could use war budgets for good, decent things like improving schools, creating jobs, providing health care, fixing infrastructure, and reversing the damage inflicted on our environment.
"Quagmire" is now too sterile of a term to slap across the flaming remains of Afghanistan. The United States has made it painfully clear that its idea of "nation building" is to obliterate a country's infrastructure and then prop up an embarrassingly corrupt leader. No wonder only 40% of Afghans think their country is heading in the right direction. Afghans hate the Taliban, but they're not too fond of the United States, either. According to the BBC, only 32% think US forces are doing a good or excellent job now. Gee, all those hours of blackouts, gallons of tainted water, and a stolen election can't even buy America a "thank you?" Ungrateful ingrates.
It appears as though Obama thinks the consensus opinion of the American people is merely a straw man argument. It has no value. The American people can kick and fuss all they want about wanting government run health care, and the end of the Afghanistan war, but their leader isn't interested in hearing from them. The backbone of the democratic process -- one person, one vote -- is cute, but not necessary. Getting out of Afghanistan is an almost adorable proposal -- an unserious hissy fit -- something that would get one laughed out of the War Room.
It's weird because I recall back in September 2008 when then-Senator Obama spoke to a very appreciative audience in New Philadelphia, Ohio. "If we don't take our government back, then none of these changes are going to happen," he said, "I need your help doing it." I guess he should have said, "I need your help doing it...unless you disagree with me. In which case, shut up."
The Times reports that the "tone was civil and restrained" at Obama's meeting with Congressional leaders. That's a shame. It would be a great time for one of our elected leaders to stand up and actually speak for the American people. Shouting would not be inappropriate, passionate dissent, invaluable. The only unacceptable approach to Afghanistan is to ignore the will of the American people, who are paying for the war, and the will of the Afghans, who are dying because of the whims of a tiny tribe of D.C. chicken hawks.
Meanwhile, there are a plethora of domestic issues (health care and the failed state of California, to name only two) that need our politicians' time and attention. Now would be an awesome time to end this stupid, destructive, wasteful, pointless war. But I guess that's another straw man argument.