Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney attacked President Obama, saying he is “afraid to make a decision” on the war in Afghanistan and that he’s “dithering.” A number of conservatives, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and columnist George Will, disagreed with Cheney’s language. “I would never want to call my president ‘dithering,’” Hatch said.
But many on the right have failed to mention the more substantive point, namely that Cheney and the Bush administration itself “dithered” on Afghanistan and diverted valuable resources to invade Iraq. But last night on Fox News, former Republican senator Rick Santorum stepped up to the plate:
SANTORUM: My sense is that we have an obligation to support our generals in the field, to give them the resources they need to accomplish the mission. That was not done by the prior administration. Let’s be very clear about that. They put their own political imprint on the Afghan strategy.
Of course, Santorum is right. In 2008, Gen. David McKiernan, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, asked the Bush administration for more troops, a request that was denied.
Indeed, as McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay — one of the few Washington journalists whose reporting matched the facts in the run-up to the Iraq war — asked of Cheney’s recent attacks: “Do we smell a campaign of historic revisionism by those widely seen as primarily responsible for the disaster in Afghanistan that has prompted Army Gen. Stanley A. McCrystal’s request for up to 80,000 more soldiers?”:
As late as December 2005, despite official warnings about the Taliban resurgence and a lack of U.S. resources for critical reconstruction programs, the Bush administration planned to reduce the 19,000 U.S. troops then in Afghanistan by 2,500 soldiers in order to bolster hard-pressed U.S. forces in Iraq.
And even after seven years of war _ and the deaths of 630 U.S. service members, more than 400 other coalition soldiers and thousands of Afghans _ the Bush administration lacked strategies for dealing with the al Qaida and Taliban safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where it backed a military dictatorship, or building Afghan security forces, according to the Government Accountability Office.
It’s nice to see Santorum recognize reality.