Wednesday, September 30, 2009

President Obama has been taking time out of his busy schedule of stalling on Afghanistan to spend hours on the golf course each Sunday. Will somebody please inform him that if he still wants to behave as a community organizer with loads of time on his hands, the community that needs direction is our military in Afghanistan. And that his generals are on Line 1.

In an astonishing admission on Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Mr. Obama’s own choice to lead the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, said he has only spoken to the president once since taking command there.

Stunned, CBS reporter David Martin made sure he had heard the general correctly: “You’ve only talked to him once in 70 days?”

“That’s correct,” Gen. McChrystal replied.

You can cut the irony with a knife because it was Mr. Obama and his fellow liberals who relentlessly attacked President George W. Bush for having no strategy for victory in Iraq and not listening to dissenting views from his generals, Congress and others.

Of course, Mr. Bush did continually hear out differing viewpoints, speak regularly to his commanders and ultimately settle on the surge strategy for Iraq, but that didn’t stop Democrats from blistering him anyway. Perhaps it’s finally dawning on Mr. Obama that the presidency is difficult and that Mr. Bush did the best he could, given the range of choices.

For two years, Mr. Obama spoke of Afghanistan as a “war of necessity” that was neglected for “the wrong war” and the “war of choice” in Iraq. If elected president, he said, he would prioritize Afghanistan, immediately effecting a “stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy.”

We can be forgiven, then, for believing that he actually had such a strategy.

In March, Mr. Obama announced that the new strategy was in effect, but he didn’t identify any specifics beyond accelerating the troop buildup already ordered by Mr. Bush.

In June, he appointed Gen. McChrystal to “carry out the new strategy.”

It didn’t take the new commander long to figure out that there was no new strategy, so he came up with one of his own and submitted it to the Pentagon, complete with a detailed counterinsurgency plan, including the request for up to 40,000 additional troops.

The White House did everything it could to stave off the troop request in order to give Mr. Obama more time to figure out what he wanted to do. This prompts the question: What has he been doing? The economy and health care reform have dominated his attention, but to quote his own criticism of Sen. John McCain, the president’s job requires “dealing with more than one thing at once.”

The engagement in Afghanistan has been ongoing for eight years. For two of them, Mr. Obama campaigned on the assertion that he had a plan. Granted, the muddled and fraud-ridden recent election in Afghanistan threw a monkey wrench in the planning, but the overall mission to disrupt the Taliban and eliminate al Qaeda has not changed.

What has changed is Mr. Obama’s role from candidate to president. He is now responsible for the safety and security of 300 million Americans and for a clear, winnable mission for those who serve in uniform.

Speaking only once in 70 days to the general overseeing a combat theater of operations is a dereliction of duty by the commander in chief. Extended Hamlet-like deliberation while American lives are at stake is exceedingly irresponsible.

Mr. Obama looks as if he’s desperately seeking the minimum he can get away with. The public is turning on the war, and his own party is increasingly opposed to any new commitment there. Mr. Obama, like most of his Democratic predecessors, finds military engagement anathema.

As a result, recent Democratic presidents tried to split the baby: ordering a military mission but doing it halfway - i.e. President Clinton’s Bosnia campaign done totally from the air and the bombing of an empty aspirin factory in Sudan.

Mr. Obama is getting radically different advice: Gen. David H. Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton agree with Gen. McChrystal on the need for a troop surge.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. argues for a reduction of troop levels. With al Qaeda and the Taliban resurgent, growing U.S. casualties, and American lives increasingly at risk, this is no time for the commander in chief to be learning on the job. Or hitting the links.

The Afghanistan war, like the Iraq war, cannot be done on the cheap. In order to press an effective counterterrorism strategy, the military needs its requested resources, a clear, definable mission and a united front of unwavering support from the commander in chief and his administration.

The American people need to see that Mr. Obama is committed to defeating our enemies there before they can defeat us here, and our enemies need to see it, too. If our allies see it, they might be more inclined to offer help, which is something Mr. Obama promised he’d deliver but so far has not.

Those who have been on the fairway with Mr. Obama say he treats his golf game seriously and plays to win. If only we would see that same fierce drive for victory when it comes to our commitment in Afghanistan.

Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.

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