Armchair Quarterbacks

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 23, 2009; 10:15 AM

From one side, Dick Cheney, whose last war didn't work out so well, is accusing President Obama of "dithering" on the conflict in Afghanistan.

From the other side, Karl Rove says Obama is going wobbly on the war.

And they both--I'm sure this is a coincidence--say Obama is following a warmed-over Bush strategy.

Call it a two-front attack, led by two of the previous administration's leading lights. George W. Bush may have opted for diplomatic silence, but his former lieutenants, not so much.

Now it would be easy to say that the former vice president has, shall we say, a mixed record when it comes to war. "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators," Cheney famously said on "Meet the Press" before the Iraq invasion for which he had strongly lobbied.

And if the right path in Afghanistan were clear, how come the Bush-Cheney team failed to find it for seven years?

So Democrats may well find this second-guessing from those who have left the field a bit rich.

The Obama administration has a clear conundrum on Afghanistan. There are no good options. Sending more troops might not work. Not sending more troops might not work. The Karzai government, which just tried to steal an election, is not the most reliable partner. Tribal factions control much of the country, which seems less susceptible to a counter-insurgency strategy than Iraq did. And the conflict has now dragged on twice as long as World War II.

As for domestic politics, the president is likely to get more support for an aggressive military strategy from Republicans than from his own party. He's also boxed in by the fact that he praised the Afghan effort as the good war while campaigning against our involvement in Iraq.

But while some congressional Republicans might join Obama in trench warfare on Afghanistan, he's got to contend with sniper fire from the former Bushies. How dare he take his time to make up his mind?

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday night accused the White House of dithering over the strategy for the war in Afghanistan and urged President Barack Obama to 'do what it takes to win.' 'Make no mistake. Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries,' Cheney said while accepting an award from a conservative national security group, the Center for Security Policy."

In his WSJ column, Karl Rove pushes back against Rahm's criticism that his team didn't ask the tough questions:

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company