Last night, the House rejected a resolution calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan, 65-356. Sixty Democrats voted for withdrawal. Five Republicans joined them. The five GOP votes for withdrawal came from (duh) Ron Paul of Texas, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of Illinois, John Duncan of Tennessee, and John Campbell of California. Paul, Jones, Johnson, and Duncan all opposed the Iraq surge. Campbell supported it, and as recently as last September said a "precipitous withdrawal" from Afghanistan "would be unwise." In a "Laptop Report" last December, Cambell said:
I simply do not believe that we can establish a lasting westernized democracy in a society that has been based on tribal cultural ties for centuries. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, as well as the porous and uncontrolled border region with Northern Pakistan, makes control of this area exceedingly difficult. Iraq's terrain and culture were and are much more suited to these types of operations. I still believe that there was much strategic value to establishing a friendly Iraqi government in a critical region of the world that includes Iran, Syria, Israel, and others. While I acknowledge the significance of Pakistan’s possession of, by some estimates, as many as 100 nuclear weapons, I just don't believe that control of Afghanistan has the same strategic value.
I'm hoping to speak to Campbell later today and will report back then.
Interestingly, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, voted to reject the measure, even though he has called for withdrawal in the past.
It's notable that far more Democrats backed withdrawal than Republicans. This isn't a surprise, considering the Democrats are the Peace Party. And yet, despite the constant liberal refrain that conservatives and Republicans are "nihilists" bent on destroying Obama's presidency through a strategy of relentless and all-consuming obstruction, the right supports the president when they think he is, well, right. The war in Afghanistan is a prime example.
This support raises the larger issue of continuity in American foreign policy. Robert Kagan has a new essay on that subject in the latest Foreign Policy:
The Obama administration took office guided by the philosophy that whatever Bush did, it should do the opposite, and this policy of "un-Bush" dominated the first months, just as the policy of "un-Clinton" persisted even longer in the Bush administration. But in both cases, "un-" policies eventually proved ineffective and no substitute for serious thinking. On most issues, the Obama administration is now pursuing approaches closer to those of both Clinton and Bush than to those favored by the virulently anti-Bush partisans. This is only natural because neither U.S. interests nor those of other countries change with the American electoral cycle. The Democratic left, which seized the commanding heights of the public discourse during the party's period of irresponsibility, has predictably been relegated to the sidelines now that the Democrats control the White House and actually have responsibility for the country's well-being in a difficult world.
If Obama continues to shepherd Iraq toward the end-state of a viable Islamic democracy that can protect its citizenry, defend its borders, and ally with the United States against al Qaeda and the jihadists; if he continues to deploy in Afghanistan the same strategy that saved Iraq from destruction and has a decent chance of bringing similar results to that war-torn and desolate country; if he continues relentlessly and effectively to pursue al Qaeda in its Af-Pak home base; and if -- a big if -- he commits to policies that forestall Iranian acquisition of nuclear arms and help bring down that nation's theocratic military dictatorship, he will have an incredibly successful presidency. A presidency that deserves accolades from left, right, and center.