McClatchy reports on one of President Obama’s latest dilemmas… whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, or not. Whether to withdraw, or not. [updated below]

More U.S. troops to Afghanistan? Obama’s caught in a vise

By Steven Thomma, Jonathan S. Landay and David Lightman | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — With the military and Republicans publicly pressuring him to send more troops to Afghanistan soon and his own administration now deeply divided about how to proceed there, the eight-year war against al Qaida and the Taliban has become an increasingly urgent policy and political dilemma for President Barack Obama.

He can escalate an unpopular and open-ended war and risk a backlash from his liberal base or refuse his commanders and risk being blamed for a military loss that could tar him and his party as weak on national security.

Obama’s decision could be a defining moment of his presidency, and it will reveal much about how he leads. Friends and enemies around the world will be watching — and judging — whether he’s firmly in charge or whether he instinctively seeks some safe middle ground.

It’s rare even to see the possibility of a middle-ground suggested. Still, that potential is not really explored in this article. I don’t have any real expertise on Afghanistan, but I do think it would be morally wrong simply to abandon the Afghanis when they have wished for our help. However, that help does not have to be of a military nature.

No other nation has ever been successful militarily in Afghanistan. Why should our endeavor be different?

Focusing on either a military "defeat" or "victory" as the only possible outcomes appears to me to be a very limited perspective. What about what is best for Afghanistan?

Certainly, this more nuanced president has the capability to envision other alternatives, but does he have either the will or the political capital to implement one of them?

I would love to see a substantive–and potentially influential–discussion in the comments.

Update via HuffPost… from President Obama’s appearance last night on David Letterman’s show:

As for the war in Afghanistan, Obama said he knows some people want him to bring troops home, and others are calling for him to increase U.S. force levels to combat the insurgency. The top U.S. commander there is warning the war could be lost without more troops.

Obama said he won’t make a decision on sending in more troops, though, until he completes a comprehensive review of the war effort and settles on his next strategy. [emphasis mine]

"I’m going to be asking some very hard questions," Obama said.