The Politics of Selling a War

Public opinion is a crucial front in Obama's Afghanistan strategy

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We've covered the extensive discussion over the effectiveness of President Obama's new Afghanistan war strategy and the rising fears over President Hamid Karzai's corruption. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains the strategy here. But how will Obama's war plan fare domestically? The fight for public opinion and congressional support, after all, is an important one in a democracy. Here's the best strategy advice for Obama's battle on the front of public opinion.

  • The Politics Matter  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains. "A non-political decision has political effects. To try and figure out what those effects are without influencing them is one goal -- one goal of many -- that political journalists will be aspiring too this week," he writes. "The way Americans answer vital questions like whether a war is just -- or whether, even if it is just, it is in our national interest to fight it -- is informed by their political ideologies."
  • Reiterate Our Commitment  The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes tells Obama to clarify. "The point is legitimate doubts about Obama’s tenacity in Afghanistan -- his level of commitment -- abound in the military, among allies whom Obama wants to deploy more troops, and with the American public. More than anything else, he needs to lay those doubts to rest in his address," he writes. "How committed is he? That’s what the world wants to know. NATO allies won’t be inclined to send more troops if Obama sounds half-hearted. The downward drift of public support for the war here at home won’t be halted either."
  • 'Window Dressing' At West Point  The New York Post's Ralph Peters thinks it isn't enough. "In the art-auction world, the trick to selling a bad painting is to put it in a terrific frame. That's the logic behind President Obama's West Point speech tonight," he writes. "Aware that his strategy's a muddled compromise that won't come to grips with our top security challenges, Obama's staging a media event. But he still won't deliver leadership. His primary strength remains a hollow charisma to which the media remain embarrassingly susceptible."
  • Truth Is 'The First Casualty'  Politics Daily's David Wood laments, "presidents calling the nation to arms have often resorted to overheated rhetoric, sly evasions, and downright doubletalk." Wood writes, "[I]t's instructive to look back at how previous commanders-in-chief negotiated the tricky no-man's land between optimism and realism – between what the voting public wanted to hear and what the man in the Oval Office suspected was a harsh and unwelcome truth. Sadly, it's the rare chief executive who can muster the courage to admit that the situation is grave, the impending costs staggering, and the outcome uncertain."
  • 11 Points Obama Should Make  The Atlantic's Matt Cooper lays them out. Here are the first two: "1. Why We went to Afghanistan in the first place. A useful reminder of 9/11, the Taliban and their guests, Al Qaeda. 2. What's working and what's not."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.