New Poll Finds Record # of Americans Against War in Afghanistan: Obama and Boehner Still Leading from the Rear
Will Keola Thomas – Afghanistan Study Group
A Washington Post / ABC News poll released this week found that a record 49% of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. Opposition to American involvement in the conflict is increasing more rapidly than ever before. Public disapproval has shot up 8 points since the previous WaPo / ABC poll was taken just three months ago.
These numbers highlight the sentiment of an American public that is connecting the dots between a strategically aimless war that will cost taxpayers almost $120 billion in its tenth (and most violent) year and a grinding economic recession at home. Two-thirds of Americans say the war in Afghanistan isn’t worth this cost in dollars and lives. And they’re right.
The poll numbers also represent an enormous opportunity for President Obama to lead. If Obama orders a truly “significant” withdrawal of troops in July he won’t be pandering to public opinion. On the contrary, Obama would be living up to the promise he made to the American public in December of ‘09 when he announced the troop surge.
And the political winds are at Obama’s back if he follows through. In February, the Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution which cited the 72% of Americans who want to speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in calling for a “significant and sizable reduction” in U.S. forces no later than July 2011. The DNC is responsible for getting Democrats, most notably President Obama himself, elected to office. They’ve read the tea leaves and recognize that the American public wants a focus on job creation and economic growth. These goals don’t jibe with the prosecution of trillion dollar land wars in Central Asia that produce no measurable improvements in national security. (Economic vitality, on the other hand, is the foundation of national security.)
Two weeks ago, Obama was quoted saying that this summer’s drawdown in troops would be significant and “not just a token gesture.” The Afghanistan Study Group has outlined what a significant reduction in troops would look like:
- a decrease of 32,000 troops by October of this year
- another decrease of 35,000 by July 2012
- leaving some 30,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces, block a Taliban takeover and conduct operations against Al Qaeda cells leading up to the 2014 full transfer of security to Afghan control
- which will save taxpayers $60 – $80 billion a year while securing America’s vital national interests
To those who doubt this can be done while still achieving our core goals: please direct your attention to the withdrawal of US forces from the Pech Valley in eastern Afghanistan earlier this year. Also, note that former President Bush pulled out the 20,000 “surge troops” from Iraq within 18 months of announcing their deployment (this withdrawal was accomplished while Iraq was still extremely violent and far from stable). It has now been 24 months since the first surge of 20,000 troops was sent to Afghanistan.
What will Obama’s definition of “significant” look like? Matt Southworth of the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation put his training as a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst to work compiling a list of planned troop deployments for 2011. The number his research produced: somewhere between 9,000 – 12,000.
Obama could find a way to increase these numbers on the military’s planned re-deployment schedule. His recent shake-up of top national security officials might, if read in the most optimistic light, point in this direction. But as of now the summer drawdown looks as if the only “significant” thing it will provide is further evidence of Obama’s inability to counter the voices calling for an open-ended commitment to the war in Afghanistan.
In failing to bring America’s commitment to Afghanistan back into balance with its interests there, Obama will risk further alienating his already disaffected political base and will be handing Republicans an enormous opportunity in the 2012 elections.
This is evidenced by the WaPo / ABC poll numbers, which found that the spike in disapproval of the war is almost entirely due to a drop in support among conservatives. The poll found that disapproval is up 21% among Republicans, 12% among conservatives, and 11% among Tea Party supporters.
If Obama offers a token drawdown in Afghanistan he will be handing Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) a shiny new gift horse with a bow tied around it for 2012.
Leave it to Rep. Boehner to look a gift horse in the mouth…and then kick it in the teeth.
Upon returning from a two-day public relations junket to Afghanistan Boehner told Obama that, “Any drawdown of U.S. troops must be based on the conditions on the ground, not political calculations.”
Such statements showcase the distinctive leadership style of those who make political calculations from the safety of the rear echelon. Oblivious both to the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and the demands of the public at home to begin a withdrawal and put the full weight of our presence behind finding a political solution to this political conflict.
Political hopefuls for 2012 take note of the leadership vacancy. The American public is now accepting applications.