Michael Steele: right on Afghanistan, sort of?
07/08/2010 - 15:34
James Besser

The whole Michael Steele controversy – the latest in a long series for the foot-in-mouth-prone Republican National Committee chairman – must be making Jewish liberals very uncomfortable.

Steele is getting savaged by fellow Republicans for saying the Afghanistan war is a “war of Obama's choosing,” and that the one thing the President should know is that you “don't ... engage in a land war in Afghanistan... because everyone who's tried over a thousand years of history has failed."

The part about it being Obama's war revived charges that Steele isn't the brightest bulb in the pack; he seems to have missed the fact that the war, now America's longest, was started by former President George W. Bush who, last I looked, was a Republican.

The comment made Steele look a little out to lunch, which is the last thing the party of Michele Bachmann needs more of.

But in a lot of ways he was also right.

Obama didn't start the war, but he was elected by a war-weary electorate on a platform of  change.  But  what he delivered on Afghanistan is more of the same.

Obama made the war his by choosing a troop surge instead of looking for a responsible exit strategy, a decision that isn't looking very good in light of recent events. In 2012, if American troops are still dying there without much to show for it, voters will blame him for the mess - and they'll be right to do so.

This is a problem for liberals – which is why, I suspect, Jewish groups continue to be so silent on the issue of the war.

Liberals can't be happy that Obama chose to prolong and intensify the war, even less so now that his “surge” has produced such dismal results.

At the same time, they're reluctant to join the chorus of Obama detractors who blame him for everything from the war to the BP oil spill to solar flares and continental drift.

Less liberal groups and single-issue pro-Israel groups steer clear of the Afghanistan issue because they haven't a clue how current U.S. policy might play out in terms of Israel's security and what it means for the effort to keep Iran from going nuclear.

I don't know if Steele was saying what he really thinks or just reflexively pounding the president, but there was some uncomfortable truth in his words.

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