Saving the Obama Revolution

The Obama revolution, and there was the
hope of one, might still succeed. But only if Barack Obama follows the
model of the incredibly successful Reagan revolution and heeds the
political base that made his presidency possible.

Love him or not, Ronald Reagan had at
least one outstanding political virtue-his respect for the concerns of
those who placed their trust in him. And whenever the political
vultures that feast on power tried to lead him astray, they were fired
at the insistence of Reagan or his remarkably savvy wife, Nancy.
Hopefully Obama and his no-less-impressive mate, Michelle, will do the

The first obligation of Obama as president
is to be a peacemaker, since he as a candidate seized that mantle,
successfully exploiting his early opposition to the Iraq war, which his
closest rival, Hillary Clinton, had supported. Obama, as opposed to her
flirtations with U.S. imperial arrogance, has stuck to a vision of a
complex multipolar world in which the military option is to be chosen
only as a last resort.

In that regard the president is making
some progress, particularly with his decision to stop provoking the
Russians with an unneeded and unworkable missile defense on their
border. He also seems serious about getting the Israelis and
Palestinians to peace negotiations, the one issue in the Mideast that
must be solved if the region's religious fanatics are to be
neutralized. And he will deserve credit if he backs his attorney
general's quest to hold the enablers of a U.S. government torture
policy accountable.

The deal breaker in foreign policy so far
has been his escalation of the folly of U.S. nation-building in
Afghanistan that feeds rather than mitigates terrorist recruitment.
That is the unmistakable, if unintended, conclusion of the 66-page
declassified report of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal that became public
this week. It states: " ... many indicators suggest the overall
situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing
insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans-in both
their government and the international community-that undermines our
credibility and emboldens the insurgents."

The report makes clear that the insurgents
are deeply divided into three camps (one of which previously fought
against the Taliban) and are basically homegrown, and provides no
evidence that defeating them has anything to do with making us safer
from attack by al-Qaida terrorists. Lest we forget, the 9/11 hijackers
found it easier to operate from Germany, San Diego and Florida rather
than forlorn Afghanistan.

foreign influence behind the insurgency comes primarily from one of the
countries we are allied with; as the report notes, "Afghanistan's
insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan." And the document goes
on to say that the historical India-Pakistan rivalry has now been
transferred to Afghanistan, where "the current Afghan government is
perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian." Great, another Kashmir
battlefield in the making.

Obama was right during his appearances
Sunday on the TV political talk shows to put the emphasis on going
after what remains of Osama bin Laden's forces in Pakistan and
elsewhere rather than simply throwing more troops into the Afghanistan
war. He raised the all-important question of what U.S. troops in
Afghanistan are expected to do.

The McChrystal report agrees that the key
is the question of mission rather than simply increasing troop numbers:
"Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying
harder or 'doubling down' on the previous strategy. Additional
resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements
misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is
the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way we
think and operate."

There is a sobering honesty to
McChrystal's report that those who want to "win" in Afghanistan must
take into account. The mission the general outlines is one of
nation-building with a vengeance by U.S. forces that must forsake the
safety of their bases, learn the local languages and enter into the
administration of local life without being able to count on the support
of the hopelessly corrupt and, after the rigged election, illegitimate
Afghan government. "Afghans are frustrated and weary after eight years
without evidence of the progress they anticipated," the report says.

It's the old winning-hearts-and-minds
strategy that has never worked-as Richard Holbrooke, Obama's point man
in the region, should know from his failed efforts to win hearts and
minds during the war in Vietnam, where he specialized in "rural
pacification." That was a Democrat's war, and the base of the party,
which knows better than to repeat that disastrous error, should tell
the president so.

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