Steele Supports War, But Not the President's Policies

When Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was caught on video criticizing President Obama’s policy on the Afghan war, he set off a firestorm, but one thing is certain:   Michael Steele and the Republican Party stand in support of our troops and their tough mission.

Our party is united in the belief that this is a war we must win and that our troops must get any resources necessary to return victorious. There is no substitute for victory.  Instead of playing politics with Chairman Steele’s comments, let use this as an opportunity to have a national debate over what is happening in Afghanistan and the entire global war on Terror.

While it is unnerving to debate foreign policy in a time of war, it is a necessity of our day. History has shown that winning in Afghanistan is a huge task. America has defeated much larger foes, taking on two super powers on two continents in World War II.  Winning requires clear leadership from our Commander-in-Chief.  While running for President, Barack Obama made Afghanistan a central campaign theme and now, after 18 months in office, he has taken full ownership of this war. It’s his war to win or lose.  Obama’s team engineered a dramatic restructuring of the war from total engagement to an uncertain trumpet.  I say uncertain, because the Obama Administration on one hands calls for victory and on the other hand calls for a withdrawal timeline.  The policy is a ping-pong of competing goals.  But make no mistake:  Today, 100% of the senior military and civilian leaders in Afghanistan are Obama’s picks.

A week ago, Gen. Stanley McChrystal ended his career by expressing his frustrations with the Administration political apparatchiks. Not only did Obama choose a significantly lower number of troops (25% less ) than requested by McChrystal for the surge, but proceeded to humiliate the Afghan President Karzai—generating   a blast of invectives from our key ally. Our commanders have to constantly fence with a blurry chain of command including Obama’s handpicked ambassador who is not very diplomatic and State Department bureaucrats undercutting the unusually hawkish Hillary Clinton—all while trying to fight the Taliban.

Two-front wars are always tough.  Even worse when one front is dissention in your own administration. McChrystal’s staff was exasperated by Vice President Joe Biden’s anti-war backbiting. In short the Obama Administration’s execution of senior government policy was a war raging in the public eye between factions of his own staff.

No wonder Americans would be hard pressed to identify Obama’s war aims. Are they victory or a graceless escape?

Here we have the oddity of American politics.  Nearly two-thirds of the House Democrats voted to put forward serious questioning of Obama’s Afghan policy. Then Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and Independent Sen. Lieberman and others, rallied in favor of winning in Afghanistan as our primary aim. These three and others used the occasion of Chairman Steele’s comments to try to rally America’s policy elite to support a very specific Afghan policy:  Victory. Victory is our goal. They want it to be America’s goal. But where is Obama? They are skillfully trying to use the moment to maneuver Obama, but will they succeed at the deepest policy levels?

Goldwater, Reagan and Bush believed wars cannot be won with uncertainty. Moral and practical clarity is essential. The objectives and tactics must be clear. When Obama alienates our allies and sends mixed signals to our enemies, this  is the formula for disaster.

Gotcha politics is a shortcut toward dishonest debate.  As Commander-in-chief, President Obama needs to choose between victory or withdrawal. All Republicans and most Americans believe we should never sacrifice a single American life, until there is a commitment to eradicate the terrorists behind the massive 9/11 attack.  Our troops deserve more than indecisive policy, wrapped up in the opaqueness of the Obama PR machine.