I sat through a painful House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday to listen for anything new from General Stanley McChrystal, who continued the administration’s backpedaling from the July 2011 date for the start of a drawdown in Afghanistan:
“I don’t believe July 2011 is a major factor in my military strategy.”
This quote is the latest in a long line of softening statements that continue to break the hearts of people given a glimmer of hope by the president’s ambiguous nod toward an exit in Afghanistan (thanks to Rory O’Connor for compiling these):
“To be determined down the road”
“The beginning, not the end, of Afghan withdrawal”
“Troops there … are not leaving in July of 2011.”
“Some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.”
“Don’t consider this an exit strategy.”
“2011 is not a cliff, it’s a ramp.”
“We’re going to be in the region for a long time.”
“We’re not going to be walking away from Afghanistan again.”
“We’re not talking about an abrupt withdrawal, we’re talking about that something that will take place over a period of time.”
“There could be tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for several years.”
This dynamic astounds me. Public opinion polling has been consistent for months that the public does not want more troops sent to Afghanistan, and the concern about the cost of the war is off the charts. Yet, the administration is apparently frightened by the conniptions of Beltway bobbleheads who think they hold a monopoly on “serious” thinking–thinking that happens to fly in the face of the vast majority of people who will actually have a say in whether incumbents keep their seats. Now is obviously not the time to let up on your activism to end the war in Afghanistan.
As annoyed as I was by McChrystal’s continuation of this this trend, most of the animosity I felt was directed at the HASC Chairman, Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). Skelton was, in a word, ridiculous.
First of all, his questions were useless:
“General McChrystal, tell us what your mission is.”
“Do you agree with the president’s decision to strategize and to increase the number of troops?”
“Will you be successful in your mission?”
“What do you need from us?”
Wow, that’s some heavy duty oversight, there, Mr. Chairman.
“How good are the troops under your command?”
“How good are the National Guard troops?”
After this ridiculous set of “aw shucks we love the troops” pap, Skelton wheeled on Ambassador Eikenberry, demanding explanations for his leaked cables that warned against sending more troops to assist the corrupt Kabul cartel. Apparently it was fine for McChrystal and his allies to leak their memos all over town, but God forbid the opponents of escalation should play by the same rules. But Eikenberry was singing the White House’s tune.
“At no point during this review process was I ever opposed to additional troops being sent to Afghanistan.”
The ranks are closing around the president, and the cracks that appeared during the review process seem to be sealing. Too bad. Paired with the health care reform debacle shaping up, the president’s full-speed-to-the-swamp policy spells electoral disaster for Democrats next year. Unless the president shapes up on ending this war, I’m staying home next year, and you should, too.