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Blog Buzz: Reaction to the Afghanistan decision

Just as it was received among both liberal and conservative members of Congress, President Obama’s down-the-middle decision to draw down the surge troops over the next year was met mostly with criticism on both the left and right sides of the blogosphere.

Liberal AMERICAblog’s Chris in Paris expressed disdain that the rest of the non-surge troops would remain in Afghanistan longer – until at least 2014.  

“What part of ‘we can't afford wars around the world because they are killing the US economy’ is Washington missing? This is hardly the type action one would expect from a candidate who promised to get us out of these inherited wars and who then won a Nobel Peace prize.”

Chris in Paris’ sentiments seemed to be echoed in a post by conservative blogger Jeff Emanuel at Red State, who wrote, “Never mind the fact that, once Obama has accomplished the promised withdrawal of the first 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, there will still be more American service members deployed there than at any time during the Bush presidency.”

He added, however, that Obama seemed to be making a straw man argument when presenting his new, “more centered course” which falls somewhere between isolationism and overextension:

“This ‘more centered course,’ apparently, means more drone attacks on high-value targets around the world (‘When threatened, we must respond with force — but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas’) and more ‘leading from behind’ while we, the UN, and NATO make fools of ourselves in months-long air campaigns that fail to unseat a single tinpot dictator (‘When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya’).  Personally, I would like to have seen one of Obama’s straw men come to life and debate him over such a ridiculous statement.”

Conservative writer Michael Walsh at NRO thought Obama belittled the idea of “victory” by stressing the importance of domestic investment during a speech about a foreign war.

“The president concluded with stirring defense of nation-building — not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but here at home, with such phrases as ‘living within our means, ‘unleashing innovation,’ and ‘new and clean sources of energy.’

‘Let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars and reclaim the American Dream.’ Just after 9/11, is that really what we were fighting for?

Whatever happened to victory?”

Blogger Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic seemed to be in the minority of voices in the blogosphere, asserting that Obama’s moderate approach was the right decision both politically and policy-wise.

“Obama's pragmatism - his refusal to embrace either the Full McCain Jacket or the impulse to just get the hell out of there ASAP - has helped him. His moderation on this has allowed the pro-surge forces to have had their moment and their say, has scattered al Qaeda, and has provoked conservative voices of skepticism to emerge in the GOP to reshape the national debate.

We intervened in a just cause, and, thanks to Obama's calibrated resilience and new focus on al Qaeda, and the brilliance and bravery of the armed forces, we have done our job. We can never care more about a country's future security than the people of that country care about it themselves.”