Does the “B” in Obama’s Plan B for Afghanistan stand for Bush?

Fresh from having taken down the “Pakistan First” option mooted by Joe Biden for dealing (or rather not dealing) with Afghanistan, the Washington Post editorial board turns its attention to the approach recently mooted by President Obama himself – maintaining current troop levels and building up the Afghan army. The Post notes that this approach, while sparing Obama from the wrath of his political base, would perpetuate the losing approach employed by the Bush administration in recent years while mirroring the pre-surge approach that “brought Iraq to the brink of catastrophe.”
It will be quite something if Obama’s “Plan B” for Afghanistan turns out to be more of the Bush policy he regularly castigated. It’s fine to criticize that policy, but only if you’re prepared to change it. Thus, the Post shows intellectual honesty – it blames the Bush administration for leaving Obama with the current mess, while supporting what may well be a more effective approach to fighting a war it has consistently supported.
The same cannot be said for liberals like E.J. Dionne who accept the importance of succeeding in Afghanistan, excoriate Bush for leaving a mess, but balk when it comes to adopting a more aggressive approach. As the Post notes, to the extent that Bush left a mess, he did so because he kept “sending just enough reinforcement s each year to match the growing threat of the Taliban but never enough to turn the situation around.” Those who are unwilling now to raise troop levels exponentially should have the decency to stop carping about Bush’s refusal to do so.
E.J. Dionne’s position amounts to this: (1) only Republicans have the stomach for fighting wars to win; (2) it was therefore up to them to win in Afghanistan; (3) instead they focused on Iraq and left Afghanistan in poor shape, (4) don’t ask us to take political risks in Afghanistan to further America’s security interests, that’s the Republicans’ job.
That’s a deplorable posture for anyone to assume; it would be a criminal one for our president to adopt.


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