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More Pols Line Up Against Escalation In Afghanistan

Martha Coakley, the front-running candidate in the Massachusetts Senate special election, has come out against a troop escalation in Afghanistan. Her leading opponent, Michael Capuano, has long been against escalation, so Coakley is trying to outflank him here. Opposing an unpopular war is the smart political play. Here’s part of Coakley’s statement:

My concern moving forward is that there is no evidence that the Afghan government, led by President Karzai, is a legitimate or trustworthy partner in these efforts. Without a credible Afghan partner, we cannot achieve a goal of securing this country with increased troop levels and then implementing a sound exit strategy that leaves it in the hands of a stable Afghan government.

More surprising is the dissent of Jason Chaffetz, a freshman conservative Congressman from Utah thought to be a potential primary opponent to Sen. Bob Bennett.

Saying it’s time for Republicans to do more than “take pot shots at ACORN,” freshman Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz will call on President Barack Obama on Monday to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan […]

Earlier this year, Chaffetz traveled to the region and said that, since then, he’s “become more engrossed in my conviction it is time to bring our troops home.”

“I am opposed to nation building, and I quite frankly don’t see or understand what victory looks like,” he said. “I believe, as most people do, that our military can do everything we want them to do. … But we’re asking them to fight a war that is not very well-defined. And we are asking them to do so with one hand tied behind their back.”

There’s little in there that’s not a cliche, making it hard to assess. But I think we’re going to end up seeing more opposition to this in the GOP caucus than at first thought, even if it would violate the party “purity test.” First, there’s the reflexive “If Barack Obama’s for it, I’m agin’ it” attitude. Second, they can use the phased nature of the escalation to criticize the policy for being not aggressive enough. Third, there are remnants of a realist school on the right who has no interest in whatever you could call this war. Add that up and you could see dozens of members against the new policy, though to be sure, plenty of neocon magical realist terror warriors will agree with the escalation.

This will not be an easy sell for the President. Bad policies usually aren’t.

UPDATE: Jennifer Brunner, running for Senate in Ohio, also calls for a troop exit. Seems that there’s a direct correlation between calling for withdrawal and having to face the voters.

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David Dayen

David Dayen