The Corner

How to Spin Afghanistan

Over at The New Republic, Patrick Egan and Joshua Tucker offer advice: Obama has to explain to the nation why his policy (once he picks it!) serves the national interest, and muzzle any uniformed doubters. They add:

And if, as appears likely, Obama decides to grant McChrystal an intermediate number of troops–especially if it is 20,000 or more–then he should consider framing (as is currently being done by some media outlets) it as a replication of the now successful “surge” strategy in Iraq. Obama can stress that he’s proposing a surge not only in form but also in substance—that is, a temporary escalation that will be followed by gradual transfer of responsibilities to Afghan security forces and then a draw-down. A counterintuitive move for sure, but one that would defray criticism from the right, since Obama could say his escalation is at least as audacious as President Bush’s (whose request also numbered 20,000 troops). At the same time, it could help him blunt dissatisfaction on the left by invoking a credible vision of how he will end the war.

This strikes me as delusional. The half-McChrystal option will anger many of the people who want more troops, many of the people who want withdrawal, and many of the people who see either option as more sensible than going halfway. (King Solomon’s lesson is not that actually splitting a baby is a good idea.) None of these critics is likely to be moved by a ridiculous numerical comparison with the surge.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.