Anyway you look at it, Obama inherited a weak military and political hand and I’m not the guy to tell you whether there’s a better way for him to play his cards. For all I know counter-insurgency may be the best military strategy to achieve the aims of counter-terrorism under the peculiar circumstances presented by the Afghanistan operation. But I can’t help noticing that the administration’s pitch to voters in defense of its Afghanistan policy is all about killing terrorists without saying much of anything about our success in building a viable Afghan nation.
Listen, for instance, to how White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s selling the administration’s Afghanistan policy. It's all about dead terrorists:
“Carney signaled that the White House believes it can weather public impatience with the war and perhaps even persuade voters to give Obama some breathing room in light of the successful U.S. military mission last month that killed bin Laden in Pakistan.This is a lot different from the pitch we heard from the Bush administration in defense of the Iraq surge. That, you’ll recall, was mostly about the brightening light at the end of the nation-building tunnel. We heard a lot about how the Anwar Awakening showed that Iraqi Sunnis were coming over to our side, the stability and democratic legitimacy of the Maliki government and the ever-increasing capacity of the Iraqi army to stand up so that we could stand down. Granted, that wasn't enough to quiet Bush’s Democratic critics or to keep the American public behind the Iraq war. But it was effective enough with the Republican base and the Republican congressional caucus to enable Bush to complete the Iraqi surge on something like his terms.
“‘We’re all aware of what the public generally thinks, but I think the public is interested in the right policy and a policy that is succeeding,’ Carney said. ‘The successful mission against Osama bin Laden highlights the broader success that we have had in going after members of Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. … It is a high-profile and highly significant success.’”
Obama can't point to anything like the Anwar Awakening, a legitimate and reasonably effective Afghan government or an Afghan army that's even literate, much less battlefield ready. How much longer can he hope to retain the support of his own party, much less the voting public, for keeping 70,000 soldiers in Afghanistan merely by pointing to the terrorist heads mounted on the wall, especially when the biggest trophy of all is already there?