The Washington Post reported this week that Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has recommended that more U.S. troops be sent there or the conflict will “likely result in failure.” However, the Obama administration is currently reviewing its overall Afghanistan strategy before anymore troops are deployed.
On ABC’s Top Line today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) attacked Obama. “A lot of us are concerned that the President is putting off listening to the recommendations from his generals because he’s getting so much pressure from the left,” DeMint complained. When host David Chalian noted that Obama simply “wants to make sure that the resources are there to fit the strategy,” DeMint accused Obama of abandoning Afghanistan to focus on health care, which DeMint suggested is not a priority for the country:
DEMINT: The problem is, the war in Afghanistan and our economy are our two biggest issues. But he’s working on other issues such as health care and he’s putting off the decision on Afghanistan which I think puts our troops at risk. So he needs to focus on priorities right now and not try to ram so many things down our throat here in Congress. He needs to address the issue of Afghanistan quickly.
DeMint’s belief that reforming health care is not a priority puts him out of step with the rest of the country. In fact, numerous polls conducted recently show health care (next to the economy) as a top priority for most Americans.
But also, the Obama administration is focused on Afghanistan. “I think that what we have to do is get the right strategy,” Obama said on Sunday. The “strategy” for war hawks like DeMint is easy because the answer is always to simply send more troops. However, the Obama administration appears to be taking a more thoughtful approach. The New York Times reports today that Obama and his top defense advisers have been “chewing over the problem”:
The sweeping reassessment has been prompted by deteriorating conditions on the ground, the messy and still unsettled outcome of the Afghan elections and a dire report by Mr. Obama’s new commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Aides said the president wanted to examine whether the strategy he unveiled in March was still the best approach and whether it could work with the extra combat forces General McChrystal wants.
“President Obama has made it clear that the Afghanistan theater should be our top military priority,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who takes the lead on the administration’s defense issues (while other administration officials, like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, tackle health care).
Apparently to DeMint, taking the time to get the strategy right means abandoning the problem.