Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Obama 2012: Some really early thoughts, pt II

I have previously written that President Obama has two politically viable options on Afghanistan:

In conclusion, I believe Obama has one path on the economy and two paths on Afghanistan if he is going to seek reelection in 2012. On the economy, the most important factor will be putting America back to work, but he can win without achieving "full employment" so long as the the unemployment numbers are trending down by 2012. In Afghanistan, Obama can go big and long or go home, but the status quo both in terms of troop strength and strategy is unacceptable and will cost Obama the presidency in 2012 no matter what happens to the economy.
Now a NBC/WSJ poll offers evidence that my analysis is correct.

By a narrow 47 percent to 43 percent, respondents say they support increasing the troop level in Afghanistan, which is a reversal from last month, when 51 percent opposed the increase and 44 percent supported it.
In addition, as Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for waiting to announce his troop decision — former Vice President Dick Cheney recently accused him of “dithering” — 58 percent of poll respondents say they support delaying a decision until after Afghanistan’s Nov. 7 runoff election and after the country’s political situation becomes clearer.

“I am optimistic that he and his generals are taking some time to actually think through this,” said Andrew Maxwell of Los Angeles.

Yet the public is divided on what Obama and his generals should ultimately decide. Fifty-five percent say they would accept sending an additional 10,000 troops and training Afghanistan’s army and police; 46 percent favor not sending any more troops and focusing instead on attacking specific al-Qaida camps on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; and 45 percent support withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country.
Just 43 percent support sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan — which is the recommendation of the top U.S. commander there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

I predicted that withdraw would be more popular than staying the course (without a troop increase), and for what its worth it I appear to be off by a couple point - but - I stand by my belief that withdraw (would be be idiotic) would wind up being a wash in terms of public approval.

As to the exact numbers, 10,000 is way too small. I support sending 40,000 but I have it on good authority that 30 battalions - about 30,000 troops - would suffice. And David Killcullen has suggested 25,000.

With those numbers in mind, it seems the dangerous middle way lays between sending no troops and sending <25,000.


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