David Gregory’s Fox News audition continued this week, as he inexplicably couched opposition to the president’s Afghanistan troop increase in partisan terms:
MR. GREGORY (to Bob Woodward): All right, I’ve just got a couple minutes left. Let’s bring it back to domestic politics here. The left does not like this war, doesn’t like this strategy. How’s this going to get paid for, Bob? Is there going to have to be some kind of war tax to pay the additional $30 billion to send 30,000 more troops?
STEPHANOPOULOS: … George, I’m going to start by showing everyone a poll that we had earlier this week’s of presidents’ approval in wartime. You see Johnson, Truman and George W. Bush, they’re basically ski slopes, as they dealt with unpopular wars. We heard Secretary Gates say today that this is not an exit strategy that President Obama has proposed, and he said it was in our vital national interest, but clearly, this political imperative at play.
WILL: Those were unpopular wars, and so is this one. And there’s really no precedent that I can think of for the public begin rallying behind a war that they have decided they didn’t like in the first place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Although initial support for the president’s speech.
WILL: Sure, for the speech, but this is — this is not the McChrystal plan. Let me say this in defense of the president. He — he — McChrystal proposed essentially nation-building, meeting the needs of the Afghan people, his words, by, with and through the almost non-existent Afghan government. This is not that. This is an increase in forces in order to constrict the mission.
But this is going to be harder than it was in Iraq. In Iraq, you had a literate society. You had a society with a middle class. But more important, when our surge began in Iraq, the tide had already turned. There had been the Sunni awakening in Anbar. They had turned against Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, who were largely foreign fighters.
The Taliban are there. When you asked Secretary Gates about the — the Helmand operation, he said, very tellingly, it’s going very well wherever the Marines are present…
STEPHANOPOULOS: They can’t be everywhere.
WILL: … and as long as they’re present. They won’t be there forever.
Will is not alone. There is growing opposition on the right, particularly the Libertarian right (which, like Will, pretty much opposed the Iraq war, too) for an escalation of the Afghan conflict. And war fatigue appears to be setting in, even among more middle of the road conservatives. Newsweek recently reported on the “strange bedfellows” mounting opposition to continuing the war in Afghanistan. For the record, I’m a left of center Democrat who thinks the president is doing what must be done in Afghanistan. So no matter how you cut it, one thing is clear — both support, and opposition, to the Afghan war bleeds across both sides of the aisle. Somebody please tell David Gregory.