I must admit up front that I enjoy watching the current chairman of the Republican National Committee trip over his own feet as much as anyone, but his latest “gaffe” appears to be a case of giving unwitting voice to remarkably good sense. Does anyone doubt that Obama has, in fact, taken moral and political ownership of the war in Afghanistan by his decision to commit to the Petraeus/McChrystal counterinsurgency strategy? Does anyone deny that no occupation of Afghanistan in all of history has proven successful? Andrew Sullivan gets to the nub of the matter:
This is, at this point, Obama’s war – because it was a war of choice for him, not necessity. The scale and ambition of this madness is Obama’s scale and ambition, no one else’s. This war is now his war, as much as Vietnam was LBJ’s. And this is not because he inherited it. He inherited a critical window to cut our losses and get the hell out, with a minimalist Biden-style strategy to minimize, if not end, the threat.
What is truly terrifying is that, at this point, not even craven political self-interest can be relied upon to motivate the Republicans to slow down the escalating disaster that Obama’s Afghanistan strategy appears to be morphing into. Such self-interest was precisely what Steele was acting in accordance with when he leveled his criticisms; recognition that, as Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, it will become an ever-more potent political albatross the Republicans can hang around Obama’s neck. You would think that, in the name of winning the next election cycle if nothing else, they would all be following Steele’s example and jumping at the opportunity.
But no. Instead, the Republicans and the right-wing punditocracy denounce Steele, rally about Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy, and lament only that the president is not pouring American blood, honor and treasure into the effort at an even more furious pace. If the Republicans will not oppose Obama on this, who will? I can only imagine how bad things would have to get before the Democrats would be willing to turn on Obama in numbers large enough to bring real pressure to bear. The country’s political system is now left without any obvious or viable check on a policy that is looking increasingly like financial and geopolitical suicide. For this, of all things, to be the matter upon which the right chooses to finally act on selfless and contiguous principle requires a special kind of insanity. And it’s a measure of how far their moral worldview — and, to an extent, that of the country as a whole — has descended down the imperialist rabbit hole.