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Obama Afghanistan troop surge hard for some Democrats

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan by adding 30,000 U.S. troops -- at the same time announcing an exit strategy to start in July 2011 with no firm end date -- was clearly difficult for many of his most ardent supporters. This is not a popular policy with an important segment of Obama's base.

I've never really known Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 man in the Senate, to be at a loss for words. He's one of the most informed and articulate senators, but his terse statement showed how he was wrestling with the new policy. "President Obama asked for time to make his decision on a new policy in Afghanistan," he said. "I am going to take some time to think through the proposal he presented tonight."

Did Obama make the case for bolstering the troop level -- again? When he took office in January, there were 32,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. He raised that to 68,000; then he boosted that by 30,000 in Tuesday night's speech at West Point.

Obama was elected on a surge of anti-Iraq war sentiment; he always supported the Afghanistan war. I'm not the first to make this observation, but it's worth repeating: Obama now owns a war he inherited from former President Bush.

Obama's friends on the left and independents are having a hard time with Obama sending in reinforcements, even with the built-in end game. This may mean it will be harder for Obama to keep his base mobilized at a time he is trying to rally support for his most significant domestic initiative, revamping the health-care system.

Take the statement from Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.): "I consider myself one of the president's men. But, I'm deeply skeptical about his plan. I hope and want to be convinced that it will work ... I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mind open. For in the end, America's strength and security is at stake.''

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) was blunt in his disagreement: "I do not support the president's decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. It's an expensive gamble to undertake armed nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable legitimacy."

He was "disappointed" Obama did not set a strict deadline for bailing out. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for Democrats and Republicans to rally behind the Obama plan but faulted it for including the July 2011 start of a rolling withdrawal.

I think Obama's speech demonstrated to the progressives who gave him support when he needed it the most -- for his 2004 Illinois Senate race, his early presidential primary days -- that he shares their goals. He may not share their tactics.

1 Comment

After great Deliberation and Agony, Pres. Obama did not just call for the Escalation of the "struggle" but married it with a specified end date of this Struggle through military might.

I saw in Pres. Obama a heart that bleeds for this decision for anyone whose heart center is open and active feels the pain of this task, yet, speaking with a Heavy Heart, I also heard in that speech the unspoken wish or Intent that he was going to also bring Bin Laden to justice ( the great Prize and Symbol)! I also heard the great Urgency he feels to bind up all loose nuclear threats and to prevent them from getting into those hands within Afghanistan and Pakistan which might annihilate the world as we know it. He has not made this this "call to arms" for Oil or for profit based upon a lie but a heartfelt desire to keep safe the people in the world, in the binding up of these nuclear threats to the world by this faction which he knows is still out there plotting to do harm! That in this way we are Standing up for Peace and that somehow we must go into Hell for a Heavenly cause.

I heard him also say to the Military Industrial Complex Machine that there will be an end date, and that it will not be open-ended, but that the battle for peace might call for other strategic ways to get to this goal -- that giving the benefit of the doubt to his generals -- he will try their way (since they are so much more knowledgeable about military than him).

As, he spoke about true security from a world without nuclear weapons (his real true goal), he also spoke about the need to unite with the world to accomplish this task because in truth, terror and nuclear weapons is a world problem! And finally, he called us to the time after 9/11, when we were all united but got deviated from the course, but to return to that Unity of purpose, one more time.... and that if he is lucky, he will bring home the Prize, Bin Ladin, break the back of this threat, and then for the weary and battle scarred-soldiers they can look onward and say, well done -- yet, there's no place like home, there's no place like home!

Let us trust " that there is a goodness in all of life that cannot even be eliminated by thoughts that temporarily cause you to believe that negativity is the underlying reality of human life on earth... " (1) Let us call on that goodness to illuminate our way forward towards that peace and goodwill and seal the door where evil dwells.

1. Ron Scolastico. Doorway to the Soul

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 2, 2009 5:09 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Dec. 2, 2009. Wooing senators was the previous entry in this blog.

Hillary Clinton to bolster Obama Afghanistan troop increase to Congress, NATO is the next entry in this blog.

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