December 1st, 2009
09:24 AM ET
11 months ago

Five questions for Obama on Afghan war

Gordon M. Goldstein is the author of 'Lessons In Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and The Path to War in Vietnam.'
Gordon M. Goldstein is the author of 'Lessons In Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and The Path to War in Vietnam.'

Editor's note: Gordon M. Goldstein is the author of "Lessons In Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and The Path to War in Vietnam," a book read by White House officials who deliberated on the request for more troops in Afghanistan. He has served as an international security adviser to the United Nations secretary-general and as a Wayland Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

New York (CNN) - As a candidate and president, Barack Obama has distinguished himself as one of the most dynamic and enthralling orators in decades of American politics.

On issues ranging from race to health care to engagement with the Muslim world, he has repeatedly applied his rare gifts to both galvanize supporters and engage his critics and the undecided. Yet it will take more than an eloquent speech before the cadets of West Point to reverse his declining 35 percent approval rating for management of the war in Afghanistan, as his advisers no doubt hope.

Like President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, who tried to balance the demands of his nascent Vietnam policy with a highly ambitious domestic agenda, President Obama confronts a tough series of tests, beginning with his Tuesday night address.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    The only question is: Why are we still fighting the Bush Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what does anyone think we'll gain from an era of constant war?

    December 1, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  2. blutarski

    Look at the Democrat warmonger President, doubling the troop strength in Afghanistan. Where is Cindy Sheehan when we need her? Apparently, war is only worth protesting when it is a Republican administration running the show, and killing innocent civilians. Or maybe Obama pilotless drones fire missles which are kind and gentle. More of the same. No hope, no change.

    December 1, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. Thomas

    I just have three questions for our President

    1. What is the objective(s) in the AF Conflict?
    2. How will we measure progress/lack of progress toward this objective(s)?
    3. What is the exit criteria for success or failure?

    December 1, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. john

    This parasite is just trying to sell books. It's the only thing on his agenda. Sadly, It's the only thing on most peoples agenda. If given the option of having no war, but no book sales for him either...or...having the war so he could have book sales...he would choose the latter. He is a greedy self serving pig, like most politicians and political "writers".

    December 1, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  5. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    This is the first decision that President Obama has made that disappoints me. i believe that this war is not winnable due to the fact of the corruption involved in the country coupled with the fact the citizens are not interested in change, only in meeting day to day life needs.

    However, I gave the shrub the benefit of the doubt since I assumed he had access to more data than I. and I will give President Obama the same benefit. My disappointment only became anger, when it became apparent I had been lied to and it was clear the real focus was to secure Iraq's oil supply, vs. catching bin Laden. The death of 3000 Americans was just an after thought to the previous administration.

    I only see this as another place to spend both money and American lives with no benefit, and so, it is time for a one percent "war" tax to pay for this never ending war.

    I agree with Obey, it is time for all of America to make a sacrifice, not just the families of our troops.

    December 1, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Macho Macho

    Look out Afghanistan, here we come....Iran next stop!

    Prediciton: Israel will take care of Iran, we will be sucked into yet another conflict with a dogged economy the likes of which no one has ever seen.

    Obama and the Democrats will be re-elected in 2012 and the Untied States of America will NEVER EVER recover.

    December 1, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. reality check

    This President, with the help of the state department and top military advisers, has brought a new strategy and new tactics to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It started within a month of him taking office and has been refined and improved as needed. I think it would be a mistake for the American people to not gave him the chance to succede in this vital endeavor. This is not Vietnam, this is not Iraq. The war in Afghanistan stands on its own and we should help clean up the mess after eight long years of failure to formulate a strategy. We now have one lets give it a try.

    December 1, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. diridi

    so far, pres.obama is doing excellent...except that dinner thingie...at this financial down...other than that, he is doing fine...fix health care

    December 1, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  9. New Era

    Obama need to either crush the terrorist decisively and quickly or withdraw all troops. Afgans need to handle their own affairs.

    December 1, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  10. Tammy

    Of course Obama will spin this as necessary and emphasize 'exit' over and over in his speech. Truth is, again he has failed the 3 a.m. call Hillary warned us about.

    Obama 2012
    War You Can Believe In

    December 1, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  11. FM

    Am wondering whether people listened to Pres. Obama when he was campaigning.
    He did not say he is going to abandon Afghanistan.
    He is doing exactly what he said. Those who did not hear him then, must not blame him now.

    December 1, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Silence Dogoode

    We can win in Afganistan
    1.If Obama looks to how Reagan won the cold war and the hostage situation instead of looking to Carter, Johnson and Clinton.
    2.Don't negociate with terrorists. it is a waste of time
    3. Make decisions faster. Our troops died while Obama stumped, won useless awards and posed for pictures.
    4.Make sure our allies are willing to work with us
    5. Ignore the UN. They are at best worthless and at worst terrorists themselves.

    We'll see...most democrats hate the US so much they are happy to lose winnable wars. They just don't have what it takes.

    December 1, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. VernisRobertson

    Bottom line Goldstein , if he would have started this war . We would have been out by now . So don't make it seems like that this his fault . Let him so what he has to do in order for him to get this country out this mess. Not one time no had anything to say when George Bush tooks us in Iraq , Afghanistan , now you have all these critics like yourself , tyring to pu the President down . We should have been out of Afghanistan long time ago , like 3 years .

    December 1, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  14. Slider

    I remember Democrats yelping because they believed that our troops were going into combat with inferior equipment, and most importantly, that Bush didn't allow for enough troops to complete the mission in Iraq.

    The rallying cry was, "You can't win the war on the cheap!"

    Well, now the shoe's on the other foot with a president dithering about, and giving his commanding general not nearly the troops he asked for to engage in Afghanistan.

    On the cheap. Right.

    Remember that as this loser of a president shields himself behind the cadets at West Point because he is unable to issue this edict from the Oval Office.

    Those cadets have more guts than this CIC.

    December 1, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  15. Pee Wee

    As a candidate and president, Barack Obama has distinguished himself as one of the most dynamic and enthralling orators in decades of American politics.

    I'll say that the guy gave a couple of good speeches and he reads what is written for him quite well. What I see live without the teleprompter is a guy intent on giving shout-outs and saying umm, uh, umm quite a bit.

    Suffice it to say, his skills in the extemporaneous arena are lacking compared to the production numbers.

    For fans of his, the hesitation and stuttering show his thoughtfulness and great reflection on issues. For most of us, it shows a guy that stumbles around trying to give measured responses that he can't be held to.

    December 1, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  16. declining 35 percent approval rating for management of the war in Afghanistan

    it is his to manage, regardless of approval ratings

    he will need to get above the fray which you are a part of Gordon M. Goldstein. Proposing issues that need attention is part of solving the problem, part of the discourse to considering all angles when working to create a solution to tough problems.

    Mr. Obama volunteered for this, we as a nation got very lucky. We got someone who considers, formulates and acts from the best information, not just the information that suits his world view. We suffered that for 8 years.

    His solution may not be the highest approval ratings, but you know that don't you Gordon M. Goldstein, our very presidents made tough decisions despite approval ratings.

    That is how good decisions are made; part of the reason the supreme court are life terms.

    December 1, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. Jack

    Afghanistan seems to me to be a genuine no-win for the Obama administration, and this entirely predictable surge of 30,000 troops is as clear a path to failure as anything I can imagine.

    I think we either need to commit 500,000 troops and $500 Billion over 12 to 15 years, or we need to get out. Either course of action will bring short-term howls of recrimination from the right... but this mini-surge deeper into the quagmire is going to sink the administration without question.

    December 1, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  18. Liz

    Obama's in the horrible position of having to clean up someone else's mess. If Bush had done the right and necessary thing and stayed with Afghanistan instead of putting all the attention on his little pet vendetta against Saddam, we'd be out now and doing what needs to be done here at home. We'll be paying for Bush's criminal regime for decades.

    December 1, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    This is not a war but an occupation, with Bush having installed Karzai, an oil analyst on the CIA payroll as puppet leader who remains in office despite the recently rigged "election". And the Afghan people, who've lost thousands of innocent civilians, know this and hate us as occupiers. The 9-11 attackers were Saudis who trained in Germany and Florida.....why did Bush not attack and attempt to occupy those areas? Afghanistan is rich with oil and natural gas.....empire building plain and simple, just like bogus WMDs and "Saddam did 9-11" to "justify" attacking Iraq even as it teemed with UN weapons inspectors Bush ordered to leave SO he could attack. And we wonder why we are loathed and feared around the world.

    December 1, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  20. bmw

    Fortunately we have a brilliant and thoughtful President who makes decisions only after considering all the angles. I'm an anti-war liberal, but realize that President Obama has access to so much more information than anyone else on the planet. He applies his considerable knowledge and judgment to a problem, and does what he thinks is right regardless of popularity or reelection potential. I'm giving him my trust and confidence and not expecting immediate results on any of the tough issues he's tackling.

    December 1, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. Viet Nam era survivor

    Thank you Mr. Goldstein – This is just like watching a bad re-run. If we should have learned anything from Viet Nam it has to be that 10,000 less than needed is 30,000 too many. How many names will be on this big black wall?

    December 1, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  22. CITIZEN

    The United States of America has enough problems IN HOUSE ( and White House) with out going into foreign countries and costing the AMERICAN TAX PAYERS tons of money. We did NOT elect the president to SPEND US INTO OBLIVIAN! We did not elect the president to SPEND OUR CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN into OBLIVIAN. We have become a TAX and SPEND country. This is not the way it should be. As intelligent people WE (the USA tax payers) should be able to ELECT INTELLIGENT politicians to CONCIENTIOUSLY GOVERN for US. GREED has taken over the politicians we have elected. When will we learn? GREED GREED GREDD
    We DO NOT belong in IRAN, AFGHANISTAN or any other foreign country as peace keepers. These countries have to learn to manage their own affairs.
    We NEED to CLEAN UP OUR OWN HOUSE. OUR PEOPLE NEED OUR HELP, OUR TAX DOLLARS.

    December 1, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Scott, Tucson

    If obama does not have a plan to win in Afghanistan by unleashing the full might of our military forces than this will smack of being another Viet Nam.

    December 1, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |