President Obama plans to announce Wednesday evening that he will order the withdrawal of 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan this year, and another 20,000 troops, the remainder of the 2009 “surge,” by the end of next summer, according to administration officials and diplomats briefed on the decision.
These troop reductions are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they reflect mounting political and economic pressures at home, as the president faces relentless budget pressures and an increasingly restive Congress and American public.
A populist take on governance isn’t always up to the complexity of the modern bureaucratic machinery. But when it comes to Afghanistan this seems like a case where its relative simplicity allows for the power of mass politics to come through. The officer corps is subject to the “sunk cost fallacy” just like everyone else. Whatever they have labeled as the end state for “victory” in Afghanistan seems to be unattainable in the short term. But rationally that’s not a major issue for generals. Our society gives a blank check to the military in terms of expenditures. And on the “big picture” scale the casualty rates are modest.
In contrast, most people outside of the military just want to forget about Afghanistan. They haven’t mixed their labor with the land, so to speak, and have no investment. More and more people are perceiving that Afghanistan is a sideshow anyhow, that the real deal is in Pakistan.
So today I hope to toast the good sense of the American public, and the craven pandering of politicians to the public sentiment!