Skepticism: Healthy or Unhealthy?

It is one of the strengths of our political system that Congress frequently exhibits a healthy skepticism of presidential claims. That is the balance of powers in action. And, after eight years of George W. Bush’s particular brand of salesmanship when it comes to war fighting, Congress can be forgiven for being especially skeptical. But, there is also a point at which skepticism becomes unhealthy and we are beginning to see that in news accounts about how the President must sell the liberal base of his party on whatever strategy he is set to announce next Tuesday.

Re-read that last sentence. There are people who have already made up their mind, having no clue as yet what the president intends to announce, his plans for the mission’s future in Afghanistan, his rationale for those plans, or anything else that has come from his several weeks of deliberation on the subject. Already, they know they are opposed. This is seriously wrong-headed not least because it makes it look like the back-and-forth of the past few weeks really was little more than dithering, that everyone already knew what needed to be done or not done, that there was nothing new to be asked or answered.


But, the President is to be commended for what happened the last few weeks. Instead of simply siding with one group of advisors over against another, he kept them at the table to devise a strategy that addressed the concerns of all. Instead of simply accepting the reports of "experts," he questioned those reports with other reports from other experts, and, evidently, at one point, asked for a whole new set of reports reflecting more current data and the changing political situation on the ground. Those who oppose the President without hearing what he has to say after such a process unwittingly indicate that process doesn’t matter, that Obama’s deliberations are no better and no worse a means of achieving a decision than listening to George Bush’s gut.

I have no idea what should be done in Afghanistan – and neither does Dennis Kucinich. I am looking forward to hearing from the President what he wants to do and, even more importantly, why? What are the benchmarks for success or failure? What is the goal of the mission? &c.? At that point, liberals can agree or disagree, but shame on them for denouncing the President’s plans sight unseen.

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David Cruz-Uribe
9 years 1 month ago
As someone who is strongly skeptical that anything that the President will announce will bring a change for the good in Afghanistan, I take exception to Mr. Winters' criticism of my stance and the stance of others (particularly in the Catholic peace movement).  I do not need to know the details of what President Obama will announce to know a priori the "frame" within which the discussion Mr. Winters praised is taking place.  This frame precludes consideration of some ideas and so shapes the interpretation of the "facts on the ground" that the general outlines of the solution seem clear:  more troops, more investment in a corrupt and non-functioning regime, and a "timetable" to prove that this is not an open-ended engagement.   Because of this I do not think that the "process" needs our respect:  indeed, it deserves to be criticized.
david power
9 years 1 month ago
A wonderful article because you provoke thought.OF course your argument is what not only America needs but what the whole world needs which is a move away from ideology and towards a healthy realism .I am not convinced that the President is up to your description of deliberation but if he is and I hope he is it will be a good sign for the world.Politics and interests seduce to the extent that we forget that this is one child of God being sent to kill another or at least there is the great possibility.President Obama would do well to do his examen of conscience before the triggers are pulled.
9 years 1 month ago
We will be told that an Afghanistan with stong/controlling Taliban will be threat to the US, Pakistan , the entire middle East.. Let's look at Vietnam... Is Vietnam a threat to anybody now?? These domino threats were wrong then and hopefully they are wrong now..A more prudent course would be to stand down and see if an Afghan threat increases over the next two years and then take whatever military action against the targets of a more 'visable' threats. Maybe the Afghans will stuggle to rebuild their country like the Vietnamese.


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