Marc Lynch on Obama's Afghanistan Speech

Don't like the withdrawal timetable? Do something about it

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Few pundits are thrilled with the Afghanistan war strategy President Obama laid out Tuesday night. Especially unpopular is his timetable for drawing down troop levels beginning in July 2011. Conservative worry it will encourage the Taliban to "wait out" our departure; liberals worry that Obama will drag his feet and protract pulling out troops. Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch, typically a supporter of Obama's, shares both concerns. But Lynch goes a step further and tells his fellow skeptics what they can--and should--do.

I believe that Obama and his team really want things to work out this way, and have carefully thought through how to work it. But when things don't go their way, will they really follow through on their promises to draw down? Few people believe that. And if they don't believe it, then the mechanism of pressure doesn't operate. So it seems to me that the best way for skeptics such as myself to help this strategy to succeed is to keep a sharp focus on the proposed mechanisms of change, demanding evidence that they are actually happening, and to hold the administration to its pledges to maintaining a clear time horizon and to avoiding the iron logic of serial escalations of a failing enterprise.

Generating domestic pressure to make his commitments on a time horizon and this not becoming an endless series of futile escalations credible will be one of the most important things which Obama's skeptical supporters can do over the next year. And Obama clearly understands that.

Complaining about what the Commander-in-Chief should have done is a favorite pundit pastime. But Lynch reminds us that Americans in general and pundits in particular play a very real role in shaping policy. Rather than just accept as a foregone conclusion that Obama will fail to follow through on the timetable, Lynch insists we can hold him accountable--and that this, indeed, may be part of the president's plan.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.