Foreign Policy Blogs

What Are The People (Pundits) Saying, and What Comes Next?

It is my sadistic joy to follow political pundits on a regular basis. Sometimes I have I have to step back from laptop as the hot air can get unbearable. Their reactions to President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, and the speech which announced it to the nation, have been something to see, I mean, read. Pundits from the right have for the most part A. Praised the overall ‘surge’ strategy B. Lamented the mention of a timetable C. Were unimpressed by lack of visceral emotion and calls for ‘victory’ in the President’s West Point Speech. While on the left, the word ‘uncomfortable’ seems to be an appropriate description of the group’s reactions so far. These of course are simplifications. Overall, there does not seem to be anywhere near a majority who favor the conflict’s escalation. This really should not be too surprising as the war has gone on long enough to fatigue even its greatest supporters, news of the conflict is almost always negative, and the country has moved considerably to an isolationist bent.

Though lack of vocal approval by the political media, punditry, and citizenry does not portend a real collapse in support for the President’s new strategy or for the Afghan fight as a whole in the near future (polls put approval of the new plan just above 50%), it does show the need for one very important thing:  The Obama administration needs to use some serious political capital to keep the country and major parts of both political parties are on the war’s side. This should be a sustained effort that works to remind us all why we’re in Afghanistan and how it is in our vital interests. In other words, the West Point speech must only be the beginning. Jobs, health care, Copenhagen, etc. all have their place on the President’s desk, but he risks losing domestic support for this ‘surge’ if he fails to show the country that he’s fully behind it.

Here are some of the more interesting reaction pieces from the right and left I have read lately from various scholars, journalists, analysts…ok, pundits!, in the last few days:

Elliot A. Cohen believes Obama has a ‘Plan’ for Afghanistan, but not a ‘Strategy’.

IR scholar John J. Mearsheimer thinks we need to get out of Afghanistan and get out of there fast!

Respected scholar Seth Jones recommends the US go deeper into Pakistani territory to get to the Taliban’s leadership in Baluchistan, and it looks like Obama and the CIA agree.

Conservative Robert Kagan of the Washington Post calls Obama’s decision ‘courageous’.

The Huffington Post’s Earl Hutchinson is still very worried about the ‘Vietnam connection’ for Obama.

Former Bush Administration member Peter Feaver argues that domestic politics had too much to do with a decision that he otherwise supports.

Melvin Goodman from has problems with the whole escalation of troops, but is for the moment particularly concerned of the lack of discussion about the surge’s military logistics.

– Lastly, New York Times reporter Peter Baker breaks down the entire decision making process for Obama’s national security team for the Afghan surge. The report is too fawning and uncritical of Obama’s leadership at times, but still provides a valuable insight into what will surely be one of the most important ‘calls’ of Obama’s presidency.