The Big Question: What must Obama say to win public support for Afghan war?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

What does President Barack Obama need to say at West Point to win the American public's support for the war in Afghanistan?

Bill Press, host of the Bill Press Show, said:

President Obama faces an impossible task at West Point. He must convince the American people that a war George W. Bush started eight years ago is not only worth continuing, but escalating. Not even Barack Obama, with all his oratorical skills, can pull that off. Americans are tired of this war. Instead of sending even more troops, Obama should announce he's bringing all troops home from Afghanistan within 12 months.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit blogger, said:

This will be a difficult speech for Obama, as his dithering has dissipated much of his capital on this issue. During the campaign he was consistent in his support for the war in Afghanistan, though many on the left assumed that he didn't really mean it (So did many on the right).  But his indecision, even after appointing his own commander, General McChrystal, in the spring, has led many to wonder how serious he is. It has also led to a decline in troop morale, as soldiers fear that their efforts will be thrown away for the sake of political expediency. I don't think he can fix that with a speech; it will take action, and consistency, over a period of time.

Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said:

President Obama needs to demonstrate to Americans how they will benefit from committing more forces and resources to Afghanistan and provide a clearer sense of what the costs to completing the mission are. Ultimately, however, results on the ground and achieving a sense of progress are the only things that will substantially win public support for the war. If there are no signs that at least some of the negative trends in Afghanistan have turned around by next summer, expect the Obama administration to announce yet another serious shift to the strategy -- one with a clearer and faster exit.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

It’s going to take a lot of carefully-constructed lies – not the usual crude Bushian deceptions, but a craftier concoction of half-truths and outright fabrications than those that took us to war in Iraq under false pretenses.

He needn’t come right out and say the Taliban has “weapons of mass destruction,” and that we have absolute proof of this: All he has to claim is that they might have such weapons, either now or in the near future – and why take that risk? Americans, who are under the illusion that their all-powerful government can insulate them from all risk, are prone to such fear-mongering tactics, and this provides the perfect lead in to the “safe haven” argument: that the population of Peoria is threatened because the Taliban are providing “the terrorists” with a “safe haven” in some godforsaken cave a thousand miles from nowhere. Under the persuasive assault of Obama’s rhetoric, Americans are likely to forget that the only “safe haven” the 9/11 terrorists needed was a safe house in Florida and an apartment in Hamburg, Germany.

In this age of political correctness, the president needs to bring in the feminist angle: He might want to look at some of Laura Bush’s old speeches for some pointers. He might point out that on December 1, 1919, Lady Astor became the first female to take her seat in the British parliament, and that the presence of several women in the Afghan parliament is surely worth the price we’re paying: thousands of dead and wounded, and $3.6 billion per month and rising. Under our breath, of course, us birthday experts will aver that December 1 is also drug lord Pablo Escobar’s birthday, an occasion that is no doubt being celebrated by Afghanistan’s poppy growers and the local Rotary Club with much pomp and circumstance.

In view of the economic circumstances under which our commander-in-chief is taking us to war, he might give a shout-out to those economic ignoramuses who actually believe – or hope – that the conflict will give us jobs. As, of course, it will – if you choose to enlist, that is. The military recruiters, I hear, are doing a bang-up business these days, and isn’t it funny how this meshes with the political necessity of the moment: sopping up all those unemployed young people who might otherwise cause no end of trouble on the domestic front. No need to call for a draft, when economic conscription works so well. Insofar as private sector employment is concerned, the new military doctrine adopted by the Pentagon calls for deploying troops in villages and hamlets throughout Afghanistan, so that they can live among the people and “win hearts and minds” – a strategy that will no doubt enrich the coffin industry, as the body-bags come home in record numbers.

Finally, in order to rally those reluctant progressives who seem to remember that they voted for him because he seemed like the antiwar candidate, Obama needs to remind his supporters that wars can be progressive, and that liberals can be warmongers, too. He might cite some of the speeches of Frankin Roosevelt, and start calling his opponents “copperheads” and “fifth columnists.” He could pepper his remarks with references to “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry Truman, and he might even evoke the spirit of the Democratic president he most resembles, in style and temperament: Woodrow Wilson, whose description of World War I as a war to “make the world safe for democracy” became the tragic joke that defined a generation of disillusioned liberals.