importantly, Obama's leftist credentials make it easier to escalate the
war in Afghanistan. Given the military failures on the ground, the
growing unpopularity of the campaign, and the president's decision to
send tens of thousands of extra combat troops, it's striking how little
overt opposition there is to "Obama's War."
Where are the
Where is the resistance in Congress?
The left may not like the war but it's fairly quiet -- precisely
because Obama is in the White House. In 2009, 27 percent of Democrats favored sending
more U.S. troops to Afghanistan compared to 61 percent of Republicans.
But most Democrats are reluctant to openly criticize the president.
Nancy Pelosi said
of the Afghan War in 2010: "we've trusted [Obama] before, we trust him
Compared to when Bush was president, liberal advocacy
groups like MoveOn.org have largely
avoided mobilizing against America's wars. According to MoveOn's
communications director, Ilyse Hogue, the hope that Obama will
ultimately withdraw from Afghanistan, as well as the struggling economy,
"has kept the wars from being a flash point for sustained political
activism this past year."
When Obama plays the hawk he also
wins friends on the center and the right. We like our presidents to act
"against type" -- in other words, for Republicans to use carrots with our
enemies, and for Democrats to use sticks. It suggests moderation and
pragmatism: a president who isn't a prisoner of ideology. So, for Obama,
the act of being hawkish -- almost regardless of how or where -- encourages
the image of a steadfast guardian of the Republic.
presidents have more credibility when they deviate from expectations.
After all, if a perceived dove like Obama favors escalation in
Afghanistan, then perhaps it really is necessary.
explains a paradox. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are unpopular. Obama
continued Bush's policies in Iraq and escalated in Afghanistan. Yet
Obama enjoys some of his highest approval ratings on these issues. Why?
Because Obama's hawkishness wins support from independents and
conservatives. As the pollster Stan Greenberg put
it: "voters are very responsive where Democrats talked boldly about
our foreign policy of taking it to the terrorists."
contrast, imagine how life would be if John McCain were president.
McCain would also have escalated the campaign in Afghanistan. But Nancy
Pelosi would probably not be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a
Republican president. Instead, Democrats in Congress would be railing
against the conflict, and liberal groups would be dusting off their
Overall then, if future wars resemble
Iraq and Afghanistan, for better or worse, it could be Democratic
presidents who can more readily grasp the sword.
Vulcan proverb goes: "Only Obama could fight in Kandahar -- and keep the
home front quiet."