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Obama Right to Weigh Afghanistan Options

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He writes of "the crisis of popular confidence that springs from the weakness of [Afghan government] institutions, the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and power brokers, a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement, and a long-standing lack of economic opportunity." That doesn't even take into account the fraud involved in President Hamid Karzai's reelection.

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Is this a situation in which Obama should commit tens of thousands more troops for a lengthy war? Should it surprise us that some administration officials are asking why it is that al-Qaeda has weakened even as the Taliban has grown stronger? These skeptics now question whether routing the Taliban is actually essential to Obama's core goal of defeating al-Qaeda.

There's a jelling conventional wisdom that if Obama doesn't go all in with McChrystal's strategy, he is admitting defeat and backing away from his earlier pledges. Those who want him to commit now are impatient for a decision.

Obama should resist both their impatience and their criticism of his search for an alternative strategy. The last thing he should do is rush into a new set of obligations in Afghanistan that would come to define his presidency more than any victory he wins on health care.

Those most eager for a bigger war have little interest in Obama's quest for domestic reform. As he ponders his options, theirs are not the voices he should worry about.

ejdionne@washpost.com


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