With President Obama's recent announcement that the U.S. will be committing 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, questions about the nature and necessity of U.S. involvement are building in intensity.
The president's argument is predicated on the idea that the safety of Americans at home is directly threatened by those we seek to defeat in far-flung locales with names like Korangal, Helmand, and Zabul. However, there is deeper reason for which we are driving our stake deeper into the deserts and valleys of Afghanistan: credibility.
Photo credit: John Moore, Getty Images
The president's national security-based argument is bolstered by intelligence investigations in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001. However, after eight years of the national security-narrative justifying two separate wars, and against the backdrop of the worst domestic economy since the Great Depression, many Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to sanction the massive amounts of government war spending.
It seems that a growing number are willing to sacrifice the added security of "taking the battle to them" in favor of the more tangible benefits of leaving the wars and their financial, political, and emotional expenditures behind us.
So with support for the war flagging as the national security-narrative loses steam, what's stopping them, both in Congress and the White House, from just pulling the plug? It would seem that politicians would want to do what they've been hired to do, which is represent the will of their constituents. Failing to do so on such a flash-point topic is unlikely to do a politician any favors come the 2010 election season.
The answer is simple: credibility. The U.S. government has led this project from the beginning — to ditch it now would be disastrous for our credibility on the international stage. Given how hard we are driving our NATO allies to contribute more troops (this in spite of adamant opposition among European constituents), if we hit the eject button now, who would ever follow us again, both militarily and diplomatically?
Why a father trying to put food on the table for his family today should care about America's position in the world is the next logical question, and the answer is that it is exactly that elevated position among the nations of the world that has contributed to our relatively high quality of life to begin with, and has made jobs accessible in this country for the past two hundred plus years.
If we want to continue to enjoy the fruits of our elevated position among nations, it may be in our best long-term interest to end this war in under more advantageous conditions.
Taking the long-view on such issues is a rare occurrence for politicians with a 4 to 6 year term limit, but in this case it seems that such a perspective has prevailed. The obvious question is how long will it last? The President set a mid-2011 target for pull out for our troops from Afghanistan. If 2011 comes and the goal posts start to move back, will politicians still give Obama the benefit of the doubt? Will he deserve it?