LOS ANGELES -- President Obama told us he was going to walk tall on Afghanistan. Now there are hints he might flip-flop on that one.
I hope so.
"I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions," he said the other day after a couple of years of saying the battle there was a war of necessity. "There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make a determination about resources."
Necessary for what? Perhaps we needed to go there eight years ago to try to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. Who do we want to kill now and why? Pride aside, what would the killing accomplish?
Is Obama afraid of being called a flip-flopper for changing his mind? That didn't seem to bother or stop Franklin Roosevelt when he ran for president declaring he would cut spending and balance the budget. In a more recent flip, it didn't seem to bother Ronald Reagan when he cut and ran in Lebanon 25 years ago.
That was in 1984, just before he was re-elected in a "Morning in a America" landslide.
The timeline for getting out of Beirut went like this:
Oct. 23, 1983. A truck crashed into the lobby of a four-story United States Marines barracks at the Beirut Airport, which was surrounded by the city's Shiite Muslim slums. The driver set off the largest non-nuclear hostile explosion ever recorded by seismographs, killing 241 U.S. servicemen, including 220 Marines. At the same time, another suicide bomber killed 58 French peacekeepers. "We have vital interests in Lebanon," said Reagan the next day. "This vicious attack will not cause the United States to weaken in its resolve. We will not be intimidated."
Feb. 25, 1984. Larry Speakes, Reagan's press secretary issued a written statement from the president -- Reagan wanted no video of this one -- saying: "To take the initiative away from the terrorists ... I have asked Secretary of Defense Weinberger to present me with a plan for redeployment of the Marines from the Beirut Airport to their ships offshore." The statement ended: "America is back. Standing Tall."
March 30, 1984. The ships sailed away. George Will, the conservative columnist, called it, "Retreating Tall."
Now even Will is calling for retreating tall and leaving the fighting to missiles and drones based outside Afghanistan. The option it seems is leaving feet first. Some would argue for nation-building. That would be nice if Afghanistan were actually a nation, rather a conglomerate of tribes sharing the same land. A third option, which I would favor, would be to pay off the warlords and corrupt "politicians" who have the guns and savvy to run the place.
This is a comment from Warren Bennis, the director of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California:
"Why do the media ... continually use terms such as 'flip-flopping' or 'an about-face,' which discredits genuine reflection and reconsideration of the past? Without that reflection we would be unable to freshly imagine future challenges and could easily become blind to the fatal mistakes of the past. What President Obama is doing now is clicking the reset key. Now he has a golden opportunity to catch a breath, to review our experiences over the past decade in Iraq, in Afghanistan and the entire roiling Mid-East. Not to do that would be a dangerous mistake because, as the saying goes, we might be doomed to repeat the past."
I hope that is what the president is doing now. He cannot win in Afghanistan because nobody can. As the saying goes: Let Afghanistan be Afghanistan. The Afghans are no threat to us unless we are a threat to them. Time for flip-flopping. FDR would. Reagan would. Yes, Obama can.