Foreign policy makes its grand return

Foreign policy makes its grand return

And while Guantánamo Bay prison is the issue du jour, Afghanistan looks to have lasting consequences for 2010. Remember the vote on the surge in Iraq? Try that, but with a Democratic president stuck in the middle.


The debate over another troop increase looms, and Americans are divided, yet again, about the prospect. A Quinnipiac poll shows 47 percent agreeing with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops, while 42 percent disagree.

Republicans favor the move 68-22, while Democrats oppose it 61-27. At the very least, it’s a wedge issue.

Some candidates have already tried to drive that wedge in their primaries, with candidates in the race for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) seat calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan and candidates in Illinois using it to differentiate themselves from primary opponents.

Massachusetts Senate candidates Alan Khazei and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) have both come out in favor of withdrawal, as has Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson in Illinois.

Jackson’s decision came after a debate this week in which primary opponent David Hoffman took a hard line against the troop increase. Though Jackson reportedly wasn’t as forceful in the debate, she put out a statement afterward going further than Hoffman and calling for an end to the war.

On the other side of the Illinois race, Rep. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry MORE’s (R-Ill.) primary opponent, Patrick Hughes, telegraphed this week that he will make Kirk’s 2007 vote against the Iraq surge a centerpiece of his campaign.

Hughes said the vote was Kirk’s “most important to date,” and that it could well be featured in campaign ads.

“We just had the same things two years ago in Iraq,” Hughes told The Hill. “President Bush ignored the politics of the day and put forth a strategy to win.”

Kirk’s campaign noted he is a 20-year Navy veteran and that he supports McChrystal’s recommendation. It noted that he never voted to end the Iraq war.

“Once the commander in chief committed U.S. troops to battle, Congressman Kirk voted against every Democrat attempt to cut off their funding or to set a timetable for withdrawal,” spokesman Eric Elk said.

There is no indication yet that a similar vote will be held on the troop increase in Afghanistan. But that won’t stop candidates from taking sides.

While the debate over the troop increase hasn’t made its way into most races, Republicans have taken to criticizing President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEx-CIA chief calls Trump intel shakeup a 'virtual decapitation' of the intelligence community Five takeaways from new fundraising reports for 2020 Democrats Obama sends birthday wishes to John Lewis: 'Thanks for making good trouble' MORE for the amount of time he has devoted to his decision on McChrystal’s proposal. If Obama agrees to send more troops, though, he will be doing so with more support from Republicans than from Democrats.

While Obama’s approval has sunk into negative territory on issues like healthcare and the economy, he remains steady in foreign policy, with 49 percent of voters approving and 42 percent disapproving, according to the poll.

The poll, which was released Wednesday, showed less than half — 48 percent — of voters think fighting the war is the right thing to do. And just 22 percent predict the United States will set up a stable government there. So while people maintain a sense of duty, they aren’t optimistic about success.