Everything, it seems, is starting to go Barack Obamaâ€™s way.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize. A health care bill passed the Senate Finance Committee with a guise of bipartisanship. Translation: moderate Republican senator Olympia Snowe voted for it. His poll numbers, after ceaselessly dropping throughout the summer, have steadied, becoming firmly entrenched at around 55 percent approval.
But underneath the calm surface lies potential calamity.
Itâ€™s no secret that Afghanistan has worsened since Obama entered office. With another two months left in 2009, the United States has already seen more casualties than any previous year that weâ€™ve been there. The 34,000 troops Obama has sent to the region during his tenure have yet to make any substantial progress that the administration can hang their collective hat on.
And now, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obamaâ€™s hand-picked general for the Afghanistan conflict, is proposing that the Democratic president send 40,000 more troops to the war torn area.
Obama, his critics say, has dithered while troops continue to struggle. Even McChrystal has said that if Obama doesnâ€™t heed his request, the region will become â€œChaos-istan.â€
The president has dug himself into a hole that even he, with all his political brilliance, may not be able to get himself out of.
And whatâ€™s the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole? Stop digging.
It is expected that President Obama will take a middle-of-the-road approach, sending between 10,000 and 20,000 troops. But, while being politically viable in the short-term, this move may destroy his presidency.
Allow me to explain. If Obama follows this course of action, we will not win this war. We are fighting a people that neither Alexander the Great nor the Soviet Empire could conquer. And we still think we can win there? The Greeks would have called this hubris.
The president needs to pick a side. He either needs to go all out and try to win this war by doing whatever his generals propose (the George â€œDubyaâ€ Bush strategy) or declare victory and begin to decrease troop levels until we eventually leave the country (the Nixon strategy). If he does neither, Afghanistan, and I say this with all sincerity, will become another Vietnam (and Obama another Lyndon B. Johnson).
The American people are already beginning to turn against this war. According to a recent Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans (and 59 percent of Democrats) oppose more troops in Afghanistan. While not a majority, or even a plurality, of the American people, it is a sizable number. The president must decide where he stands on this issue and let the chips fall where they may.
The president thinks his plate is full. Itâ€™s only full because in the buffet line he piled on food upon food because the sign said, â€œAll You Can Eat for $10.99.â€
Health care will not drastically change the direction of this country. The recession, while important, will not shake us â€” we already lived through a Great Depression. The potential repeal of our militaryâ€™s â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ policy will affect hardly any lives.
These are all side courses, hors dâ€™oeuvres if we stay on the plate analogy. Obamaâ€™s decision on Afghanistan is the main course. And he hasnâ€™t even touched it yet.