In earlier posts, I predicted that President Obama would pursue a Long War strategy virtually indistinguishable from his hated predecessor, George W. Bush. Further, to cover the political consequences of this with his base, I predicted Mr. Obama would: 1) bash Bush, and 2) rally the Nation. It now appears highly likely that Mr. Obama will pursue an Afghan Surge much in the manner of Mr. Bush and that he and his allies have bashed Bush through this decision.
But where’s that Rally the Nation stuff?
Mr. Obama must pursue the Long War much like Mr. Bush because that’s where the facts take us. The base Left thought the problem was Bush and with Their Guy in the White House, things would change. They are wrong. Bashing Bush buys time for Obama, but it does not solve the ultimate problem: the Long War is every one’s war, not just running dog capitalists like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
Obama has not yet mounted a serious persuasion campaign to get his base and other large sections of America to understand the problem and rally to the solution. Contrast the vigorous persuasion campaign for health care reform with the very quiet campaign about the Afghan Surge. Obama knows how to bring it or at least try as the health care issue demonstrates.
Wars require a different kind of political leadership than domestic issues, even one as large as health care. Wars produce considerably more surprise, suffering, and sadness and there’s still a chance we will fail at it. If Mr. Obama does not persuade the Nation that we must fight the Long War AND does an Afghan Surge, he may face the horrible political situation President Lyndon Johnson confronted.
If Obama is going to Surge (and look like Mr. Bush) he must mount a sustained, long term persuasion campaign to rally the American people.