Obama's Task: Selling His Afghan Decision

Makes his case as the public increasingly sours on war

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009  |  Updated 10:10 AM EDT
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President Obama plans to call for a 35,000-troop surge in Afghanistan, but the public wants to know the exit plan.

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After months of "will he or won't he" speculation, President Obama has finally made a decision to ship some 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, part of a plan he'll lay out for the American public tonight in a televised address.

Obama's task tonight is to rally an increasingly skeptical nation's support for the troop buildup. Pundits say he has his work cut out for him.

  • David Corn at Politics Daily writes that Obama is obligated to explain how he can simultaneously declare the Afghan war must be won but vow that the commitment is not "open-ended." "Whatever the finer points of his Afghanistan to-do list, Obama is conveying a dual message at war with itself: This must be done, this won't last forever," Corn writes.
     
  • Real Clear Politics' Pierre Atlas shared Corn's doubts, writing that no matter what plan Obama unveils, it's moot unless the administration pledges to follow it until the job is done. "No strategy -- regardless of the number of troops involved -- will likely succeed if we are not willing to see it through to completion," according to Atlas.
     
  • The editorial board at the Miami Herald also questioned Obama, saying the commander in chief is attempting to accomplish a "political feat that has eluded his predecessors: rallying public opinion behind a war that is fast losing public support." The way Obama can make it work, according to the Herald? Clear benchmarks and global alliances -- with a little help from the president's magical gift of gab.
     
  • Conservative columnist Jed Babbin at blog Human Events predicted a total Obama breakdown, saying the president "will get it entirely wrong" with his Afghan strategy. "Obama wants to fight a penny-pinching, politically-correct war...Which can only bring defeat," Babbin writes. 
     
  • It wasn't as black and white for Slate's Fred Kaplan, who blogs that he's not sure whether he agrees with Obama's decision, but that no matter what tack the president takes, he's got to be confident in his approach. Kaplan's view: "A columnist can be ambivalent; a president can't."

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