While there’s much in Michael’s post I disagree with on a substantive level (like his odd suggestion that “we want al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Really?), my main beef is on a macro level, when he states that your friends here at the PPI continue “to reflect a perspective that has driven some dangerous foreign policy thinking in the Democratic Party in recent years…. Aren’t the days of ‘Democrats need to be as militaristic as the Republicans’ behind us?”
Michael is implying that I am mindlessly supporting President Obama’s reported escalation in Afghanistan out of a fear that Democrats will look weak on matters of national security.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In no way am I “as militaristic as the Republicans,” nor am I engaging in militarism for militarism’s sake. That’s ridiculous. My position boils down to what I think is essential to keeping the country safe. (On that note, Michael will no doubt re-raise the pre-invasion debate on Iraq, which I’m happy to deal with in a separate post.)
Here’s what it comes down to: Democrats can’t shirk the responsibility of making difficult choices on national security because of political expediency. It is easy to say, “We’re sick of being in Afghanistan, we’re sick of American soldiers dying, we have been al Qaeda-free since 2001, and all the poll numbers say Americans want out, so why don’t we just pack it in?”
But based on my analysis of the existing evidence, I firmly believe that America has ongoing national security interests in Af-Pak, and what the president will announce tonight offers the best possibility (of many imperfect choices) to permanently secure the country against a patient and resilient adversary. That might not be the popular or easy choice, but it’s the necessary one.
Michael would likely argue that he sees little compelling evidence to suggest an ongoing national security interest, or that there may be one, but it can be contained with a significantly smaller military footprint.
I’d disagree, of course, and so would President Obama, who has had far superior information on the subject than either of us, and whose campaign and governance to date hardly suggest a leader intent on duping the country into more unneeded military misadventures.