Moral Outrage
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The effect of firing Stanley McChrystal on the Afghanistan withdrawal

President Obama may have saved his reputation as commander-in-chief by firing Stanley McChrystal, but he deepened his Afghan quagmire by choosing David Petraeus as the replacement.

A measure by Rep. Jim McGovern, which requires an exit strategy including a withdrawal timeline, awaits House action after the Senate killed an identical bill by Sen. Russ Feingold two weeks ago.

Perhaps the most important thing we know about Petraeus is not that he was the author of the Iraq surge, but that he is a political general, who openly pays attention to two “clocks”–that of events on the ground and that of domestic public opinion as well.

In the case of Afghanistan, Petraeus will want to speed up the Afghan clock by the summer-fall military escalation in southern Afghanistan, and, according to recent testimony, slow down the American clock–now ticking toward a July 2011 deadline to “begin” US troop withdrawals. On a parallel diplomatic track, Petraeus will support very gradual steps toward talks with the insurgents.

There could be friction with the White House if Petraeus and his allies insist on a “conditions-based” troop withdrawal plan. Over the weekend, Rahm Emmanual emphasized in interviews that the July 2011 deadline for initial withdrawals was a firm one.

Obama may well want to run for re-election in 2012 on a platform of having ended the Iraq War and begun the end of the Afghanistan one.  In trying to win in Afghanistan, Obama definitely risks losing most of the peace movement and the larger bloc of peace voters.

[Excerpt of an article by Tom Hayden]

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