In poll results from CBS News released earlier this month 57% of Americans feel that we should not be fighting the war in Afghanistan. When asked, "How much longer would you be willing to have large numbers of U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan?" 38% of those polled responded with less than a year. 24% of Americans felt we should only maintain a presence in Afghanistan for one to two years.
Clearly a majority of the people has grown weary of this war and sees little to be gained from maintaining our presence. 62% of Americans want to see us exit this final Middle Eastern war no later than October 2013.
Recent comments would suggest that Mitt Romney is in line with the majority of the American people, if not the traditional Republican Party line.
In a speech at The Citadel Romney asserted, "I will order a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation's sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban. I will speak with our generals in the field, and receive the best recommendation of our military commanders."
During a recent debate Mitt Romney made the claim, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can -- as soon as our generals think it's okay."
Yet when we look at the following Romney response to Obama's commitment to withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, we get the sense that Romney believes that it would be quite all right for him to bring troops home from the Middle East, but not President Obama: "The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government."
Concerning troop withdrawals in Afghanistan, in June of this year President Obama committed to bringing home 10,000 troops by the end of the year and 33,000 by the fall of 2012. The current withdrawal deadline would leave approximately 68,000 troops at the end of 2012.
This sets Obama up nicely to make another announcement in the fall of 2012 about additional troop withdrawals for the end of 2012 and for the year 2013.
Let us consider what would happen if in September 2012 Obama were to announce an additional 18000 troops withdrawn from Afghanistan by Christmas 2012, 25000 more combat troops withdrawn by June 2013 and the last 25000 troops coming home by Christmas 2013, thus effectively ending the Afghan war.
By placing the final troop withdrawals in 2013 it would mean that the winner of the election in 2012 could either continue with the commitment to withdraw all troops or reconsider this commitment. The question on some voter's minds now becomes, will Romney reverse the President's decision to end the Afghan war?
I believe Romney's (insert alternative Republican candidates name here) knee jerk reaction would be to accuse Obama of naiveté and tremendous misjudgment in regard to our nation's security. Despite Romney's assurances that it is time to bring the troops home it has long been the habit of Republican candidates to oppose absolutely everything the current President does regardless of merit. A reaction such as this would make it rather difficult for Romney, or whomever the Republican candidate may be, to do anything but commit to leaving the troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.
What would be the American people's reaction be? Most assuredly it would be hell yeah! When talking to people that I routinely associate with, there is one policy issue that my conservative and liberal friends agree on and that is that it is time to end the war in Afghanistan.
Very few people trust a legitimate Republican candidate to truly advocate for ending the Afghan war. Even fewer would trust a Republican President to make that call.
Ending the war will definitely win the hearts, minds and votes of many independents. Is it possible that Obama could frame the withdrawal in more ways than just ending the war, and win more independent votes? Of course there is.
Troop withdrawal would mean the US taxpayer stops footing the bill for this unpopular war. How would the savings be spent? Let's divvy it up according to talking points.
Job Creation: Ten to fifteen percent goes to rebuilding not Afghanistan's, but our nation's bridges, roads, airports, and schools. Ten to fifteen percent goes to non military research and development to foster innovation and technological advancements. An additional ten percent goes to programs dedicated to reemploying placing our returning troops in civilian jobs.
Immigration and National Security: A portion of the troops and ten to fifteen percent of the savings goes to further securing our border.
Deficit Reduction: The remaining 45 to 60 percent will go to deficit reduction.
Would this mean the difference in the 2012 election? Who knows? This is truly speculation, but this is something that the President as Commander-in-Chief does have the ability to do. In the time left he will not be able to dramatically reduce unemployment and he may not be able to lower gas prices, but he can bring troops home and put an end to the stress and tragedy currently experienced by military families.
There is certainly enough justification to end a war that costs us not only money, but more importantly American lives. It is my sense that taking an action such as this will cost the President little in votes and could gain him enough to make the difference in key competitive states.
No, the President should not use war as a political football, but if the end result is the end of this now more than ten-year war, I am good with it.