Gates Says Afghan Drawdown Timing Is Flexible - NYTimes.com: "Obama administration officials tried again on Thursday to reassure members of Congress anxious about the military buildup in Afghanistan, telling them repeatedly that American troops can begin to withdraw in July 2011. But the lawmakers seemed more interested in how long the withdrawal would take"
The reason I liked Obama's new plan for Afghanistan was that it represented an exit strategy. Having watched the discussion in the aftermath of the speech I agree with lawmakers--I, like perhaps the majority of the American voters, want security on the endpoint, no flexibility.
A discussion have evolved in the literature the last couple of days and that is whether or not the gut feeling of people can be trusted in the case of a situation where the experts apparently can't give you much of security in the estimate. What we hear in the above citation is not the judgement of the president but of his expert the minister of defense. Perhaps it is more interesting to know if Obama's real intention with the current plan is to end the war? Following the advice of the people is then obviously the safest bet. The leader cannot be blamed and national stability is maintained.
Ian Buruma brings up a slightly different question namely that the gut feeling of people can't be trusted in referendums. However, Buruma seems to think that a person's judgment is different from his gut feeling. In the above reasoning I equal polls with referendums. After all they are quite similar. It is of course interesting if there is a difference in the ability of a person to select a representative and to make a judgment of a matter. If people are better in judging people than matters, Buruma might be right. If not, it seems like he is against democratic principles.
Getting back to the problem of should I stay or should I go, Obama's problem is to decide if it is the interest of the United States or that of Afghanistan that is foremost. The same goes for NATO. Will we be seen by the world as hopelessly belligerent banging our heads against the wall in far countries or as peacefully minding our own business. The opinion of India, China and Japan is actually beginning to matter quite a lot. This question is so much larger than if occasional terrorists emerge that, as from elsewhere in the world, will have to be stopped at our borders.