The War on Terror, confusing and anxious-making as it may be, has produced one encouraging side effect in American politics: The gung-ho is gone as all sides concede the military effort in Afghanistan is a dangerous enterprise with an unknowable outcome.
As President Obama goes face-to-face with General McChrystal today by tele-conference, the debate over what to do next has been a good deal less rancorous than any other in recent Washington history. “Dithering” has been the harshest accusation against the White House by Congressional Republicans, as the Administration leaks reports of success against Al Qaeda by covert operations.
On PBS, GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss agrees with the Democrats’ Carl Levin that “just putting troops out there is not going to guarantee success” and argues for more reliance on the military judgment than Levin is willing to accept, a far different tone than partisan disagreements over the Surge in Iraq.
As wrenching as what’s at stake is, it’s heartening to see some semblance of sanity in American politics, the disappearance of which Tom Friedman laments today: “Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word ‘we’ with a straight face. There is no more ‘we’ in American politics at a time when ‘we’ have these huge problems.”
On the fringes, the overheated rhetoric goes on, from Gore Vidal on the Left expressing disappointment in Obama and predicting “dictatorship soon” to a Republican Congressman calling the President “an enemy of humanity.”
In a perverse way, Afghanistan with all of its corruption and complexity is bringing back serious thought to political debate at a time when the substance of issues has been degraded into a 24/7 circus of media slanders.