Afghanistan was supposed to be the good war -- the one Democrats said we should be fighting instead of Iraq. We heard it over and over again during the presidential campaign, as if to exorcise the image that a Democrat wasn't tough enough to assume the role of commander in chief. Candidate Obama repeatedly called the war in Iraq "a dangerous distraction" from the fight we should be waging and promised to "tak(e) the fight to al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan." But with a new poll out showing that a majority of Americans now think the war in Afghanistan isn't worth fighting, it won't be long before Democrats decide to turn tail.
Afghanistan has always been as difficult a challenge as Iraq, if not more difficult. It is both larger and more populous than Iraq, with a population that is less educated, more tribal, and used to repelling foreign invaders over the centuries. The war in Afghanistan was originally conceived as a necessary war after nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives in an attack planned there, so rooting out the Taliban supporters of al-Qaida was viewed as justified. Now, however, some Americans have changed their minds.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken in mid-August shows that a bare majority, 51 percent, now question whether the fight in Afghanistan has been worth waging. But the poll reflects an interesting divide. Democrats are far more skeptical than Republicans. Seven in 10 Democrats now say the war hasn't been worth the costs, while 70 percent of Republicans say it is worth fighting, with Independents evenly split 49-49 percent.
The U.S. has doubled the number of American troops in Afghanistan, which now stands at 68,000, but more are needed. Even with the additional 33,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the numbers of security forces in the country are far smaller than similar forces in Iraq. And the fact is, Americans only support wars they think they're winning. Public opinion turned against the war in Iraq when Americans believed it could not be won.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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