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Obama must say 'no' to expanded war effort

Back in January 2008, when then Sen. Hillary Clinton looked like a Democratic primary winner, she underwent a grilling by NBC's Tim Russert on her vote to authorize an invasion of Iraq.

Clinton acknowledged that her rival, Barack H. Obama, did oppose an attack in 2002. But she said by 2003 Obama took his opposition down from his Web site, "and by 2004, he was saying he really didn't disagree with how George Bush was conducting the war." Clinton added that from 2005 to 2007, Obama "voted for war funding and didn't go to the floor to condemn the war for 18 months."

Rattled by Russert, Clinton's complicated answer didn't help her at all. However, it prompted Obama to make a promise set in concrete to start pulling troops out of Iraq the day he took office, at a rate of a brigade a month. We would be out in 16 months.

More than any other single factor in the presidential primary, Obama's anti-war posture rolled the Clinton campaign by last June.

Today, of course, President Obama hasn't ordered any troops out of Iraq. In fact, he's being pressured by the Bush war czars he mistakenly retained to keep the force level just as it is.

Last week, Obama made the Afghanistan war all his own.

While the nation's media were focused on the stimulus bill, the White House let it out that Obama authorized sending 17,000 American troops into the eternal night of Afghanistan. That is in addition to the 38,000 who are already there.

Obama's anguish over a stressed-out military establishment went into the 2008 campaign file cabinet, replaced by mission creep.

With allegedly "anti-war" Democrats firmly in control of Congress and the White House, no one uttered a peep of protest.

Obama's misguided assent came amid days of cheerleading by Robert Gates, the defense secretary he kept on, and by so-called experts in Washington foreign policy circles.

Alexander Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Afghanistan war is somehow "winnable" despite its opium economy, genetic hostility to Westerners, ingrained corruption in the government and aid organizations, and instability in neighboring Pakistan.

Cordesman said the war is America's responsibility alone, and that we need "a bare minimum" of 30,000 more U.S. troops there to match "the kind of 'clear, hold, build' strategy that had success in Iraq."

So if we have "success" in Iraq, why can't we just get out?

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, said an additional 30,000 Americans may not be enough.

Gates is saying whatever works at the moment. He told Congress: "If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest."

To be honest, none of these officials, least of all Obama, has an exit strategy other than saying the word "exit." But then neither did the Soviet Union.

More than 15,000 Soviet troops died in that nine-year adventure. The Soviets' military morale collapsed, and the financial strain helped bring down "the evil empire."

In a way, Cordesman is right when he says Afghanistan will be our chore alone. Canadian politicians are chafing over their commitment there, and the United Kingdom and Germany are balking at sending more troops.

We can't afford it any more than the Soviets could.

Our South Asia wars are costing $15 billion a month in borrowed money. If Obama keeps obeying the generals, the cost dating from 2001 will reach $1 trillion by the end of his first year.

U.S. military dead since 2001 top 4,800.

Americans are not going to get what they voted for until Obama assembles his own defense team and learns to say "no."

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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