What is UP with the “Political Suicide” thing?

Cross-posted at Dkos

I don’t get it.

I really don’t get it.

People are going around all over saying that Obama MUST escalate in Afghan, or that he simply CANNOT peel back the massive military footprint,  

Or else it will be political suicide.


Other ways I hear the same thing said:

Obama will be politically destroyed if he doesn’t escalate!


Obama will be a one-term president if he surrenders and pulls out!


I hear this at Dkos.  I hear it at other blogs.  I hear it in the other media.

But I don’t hear anyone QUESTION IT!

For example, Dan Froomkin took this up in a piece at HuffPo a few days back. entitled “Obama’s Afghan Dilemma: The Only Real Exit Strategy Is Political Suicide”.

So is there any alternative to an open-ended commitment? The only genuine exit strategy left involves unilateral disengagement. But politically, that’s a nonstarter — at least for now. It is widely considered inevitable that if Obama began to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan without being able to declare some form of victory, he would be derided in the press and by Republicans as a coward and a quitter.

But, has this funky little “political suicide” premise been widely QUESTIONED?


For another example, the noted authority on the region, Rory Stewart, in an interview on Bill Moyers Journal, explained why a big military footprint is completely wrong:

RORY STEWART: I’m saying that the goals are absolutely mistaken in terms of U.S. national security, and probably in the end in terms of the interests of the Afghan people.

LYNN SHERR: They’re wrong because we can’t accomplish them? Or because it’s not what we should be trying to do?

RORY STEWART: We can’t accomplish them. And in trying to do so, we’re often making the situation worse. Afghanistan is very poor, very fragile, very traumatized. To rebuild a country like that would take 30 or 40 years of patient, tolerant investment, and probably that’s what we should be aiming for. But in order to do that, we need to have a presence there which is affordable, which is quite small, which is realistic, and which the American people will endorse. People aren’t going to put up with over 100,000 troops on the ground and this level of casualties forever. So, probably better for us, better for the Afghans, would be to step back and say, “Hey, we’re not going to try to do all this stuff. We’ve got two very limited objectives – we’d like to make sure that Al Qaeda doesn’t significantly increase its ability to harm the United States, and we’d like to do something for the Afghan people. And we recognize that doing those two things is a very long term process, and so, we probably need fewer troops, not more.”




LYNN SHERR: How many troops do you believe are needed in Afghanistan right now?

RORY STEWART: Not that many. I would have thought what you needed from point of view of Al Qaeda counterterrorism is probably 10-20,000 special forces and intelligence operatives. Doing pretty much what they’ve been doing quite successfully over the last seven, eight years. People are saying we’ve failed in the counterterrorism objective, of course, we haven’t really. Osama Bin Laden isn’t in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda hasn’t got bases in Afghanistan. And I think we could continue to ensure that was the case.

Nothing unusual, here. This is exactly what I’d expect Rory Stewart to say: big military footprint is making things worse in Afghan through a negative feedback loop, and we can drastically peel back our ground troops and then more effectively fight the few actual international jihadistas.  The bulk of the interview is consistent with the above.

But here comes the corker:

LYNN SHERR: So, to sum up, President Obama has his big decision, and your advice is?

RORY STEWART: My advice to President Obama is, you’re going to have to increase troops now. It’s too late for you, because you’re going to be destroyed politically if you oppose your general on the ground on something like this.

Say, WHAT?

Now, I have high esteem for Prof. Stewart on matters having to do with Afghan.  Good gawd, the man has earned it.  He’s a leading expert on Afghan.  No one I know debates that.

But Rory Stewart, the Afghan expert, has suddenly placed himself in the role of Political Suicide Advisor To The President, and I have no clue where he got those qualifications. Prof. Stewart says Obama will be destroyed politically if he does not escalate, without explaining how political destruction would occur, why political destruction should be regarded as inevitable, or how political destruction could be averted.

Rory Stewart has painted Obama’s political destruction as a done deal if Obama does anything other than escalate.  Without explanation, whys, wherefores, or provisos.


The first thing to ask might be,

Just exactly who or what would politically destroy Obama?

Would it be Repubs?  Rush Gasbag?  Glen Beck?  Mitch McConnell?  Joe Price?  John McCain?  Sarah Palin?  William Kristol?  (Surely it wouldn’t be progressives who would destroy Obama.)


how could the wing nuts politically destroy Obama?  

By flapping their mouths?

Hold on, there!

We all know how well Obama makes speeches.  We’ve heard plenty about how he’s the guy to give Americans teachable moments.  And does he have a smart team with him, or not?

Surely, Obama and his team are smart enough, and capable enough, to effectively push back against wing nut noise?  and get the populace on board with a troop reduction, given he went that route?

The only way Obama would risk political suicide for re-deployment is if he and his team are not smart enough or capable enough of pushing back against WingNutNoise.

So, what is UP with the political suicide thing?  Why do we keep hearing this said, and we don’t hear it challenged?


Of course, a whole ‘nother matter is Democratic willingness, or lack of it, to push back against the WingNutNoise.

This has popped up repeatedly on Tom Tomorrow’s radar screen.



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And, more recently, and more specifically related to national security issues,


how do repubs do it

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Good question, there.  Why do Democrats allow the narrative on national security to be controlled by Repubs?  when Obama and his team are smart enough and capable enough to control and determine the narrative themselves?

I really don’t get it.



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  1. All Obama needs to do is escalate through the UN.  Obama is right now in the LBJ trap though.  If he escalates he will have to escalate more and more.  If he doesn’t, then the conservatives will simply aply the “soft on terror” meme.  As well as the label of the president who lost two wars.  Even if such labels are distortions of reality.

    Americans have a short attention span these days.  They won’t remember what was what four years or eight years ago.  They will remember only four or eight monthes before the elections.  

    Republicans control the narrative because they are very good in regards to PR.  Telling the truth is not as effective as massive quantities of demographic specific propaganda.  

    What Obama needs to do is conduct this war through the UN.  Escalate only to the amount that other nations are willing to escalate.  And keep the shit to shoe level for his relection.  

    • Inky99 on November 26, 2009 at 08:16


    Absolutely perfect.

  2. He did all the hard lifting during the primaries and election. And he folded up his tent the day after he won the Presidency. He’s taking the easiest path of resistance with health care reform, Afghanistan and the economy.

    It’s clear as day now why he voted “not present”  so many times in the Illinois state senate. And it appears that’s how he’s governing now. It seems he’s trying to get that same Teflon that Reagan had.

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