With Bob Woodward revealing that Obama's top Afghanistan general has requested a surge-like addition of several thousand troops, Obama faces a treacherous political path. Both the American left and much of Europe's leadership want out of Afghanistan, yet the American right and the military want greater commitment. Weighing two difficult options with complex implications in Afghanistan, Obama must consider what is militarily as well as politically viable.

  • Time to Act Is Now  Simon Tisdall urged Obama to act quickly, as European support is evaporating quickly, with domestic support likely to follow. "However inadequate or otherwise the allies' response, the likely upshot is that some time later this autumn, Obama will accept McChrystal's overall assessment and an argument will begin about exactly how many US troops should be sent, which parts of Afghanistan they should go to and what they should do," he wrote. "Obama has a very limited window of opportunity, politically and militarily, to retrieve the situation. McChrystal knows it. And the Taliban knows it too. If the tide has not turned decisively 12 months from now, it will be time to admit defeat and come home."
  • War Will 'Make or Break' Obama  Michael Goldfarb suggested that Obama, who has steadily raised troop levels since taking office, is clearly invested in Afghanistan. The chief challenges for Obama are political, Goldfarb noted, rather than military. "Obama is slow-walking the troop increase for political reasons, even as it seems likely that he will, in the end, do the right thing and send the necessary reinforcements," he wrote. "McChrystal leaves no doubt about what must be done if Obama is to keep his word -- more troops and very soon. The president cannot delay that decision any more -- not for the sake of his health care initiative or anything else. And in any case, as a matter of politics the best thing for Obama and the Democrats is to win the war."
  • Appease Liberal Base or Swing-Vote Center?  Ed Morrissey positioned the Afghanistan War as a political choice for Obama between the liberal anti-war crowd and the much larger pro-war center. "The left wing of his party wants to retreat from both Afghanistan and Iraq, and this report gives them the bright line in the sand they need. The GOP have been very supportive on Afghanistan, with a few notable exceptions (George Will being the most prominent). The center bought Obama as something other than a typical liberal shrinking violet on American power based on his campaign pledges to fight and win in Afghanistan. A retreat might lose the GOP, which he never had except on this issue, and win back his left wing, but it will absolutely undermine his credibility with the center and further erode his political standing."