At a speech last night before the conservative think tank Center for Security Policy, Cheney blasted Obama's "dithering" on deciding a strategy for the Afghan war. "Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries." But he also defended Obama against liberal critics who want him to abandon the war, pushing the President to hold his ground. Cheney's delicate dance, one reproduced today on conservative blogs, aimed to fight Obama on political ground while endorsing him on policy, to bolster apparent opposition while drawing parallels between the two administrations.
While Cheney deflected charges that his administration put insufficient focus on Afghanistan, forcing the Obama White House to compose an Afghan strategy from scratch, he did so by comparing his Afghan policy to Obama's. Cheney recalled a team of Bush-era officials who requested that their work on Afghanistan remain secret:
They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision - a good one, I think - and sent a commander into the field to implement it. Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced. It's time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.
- Cheney Right to Fight Against Scapegoating Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey applauds Cheney punching back, but reiterates his support for Obama's Afghan policies. "Cheney won't sit quietly while Obama shifts blame for his own lack of decisiveness onto Bush and Cheney. The notion is risible anyway. Obama campaigned for two years on the promise to fight a more robust counterinsurgency strategy, in large part to dispel the notion that he was an anti-war pacifist. He reaffirmed that decision repeatedly this year, most recently by appointing Ge. Stanley McChrystal, the Army's leading COIN expert, to command in Afghanistan. Now that McChrystal has requested the resources that comes with COIN, suddenly it's all Bush's fault." Morrissey's opinion, representative of that among most conservatives, was echoed throughout the blogosphere.
- So Cheney Blasts His Own Strategy? The American Prospect's Adam Serwer points out that Obama's current strategy is much the same as that of the Bush-Cheney White House. "To the extent that they haven't implemented a new strategy, they've been following the one the Bush administration put in place for the past eight years give or take. So Cheney is basically admitting that the Bush administration strategy was, itself 'dithering' which doesn't seem to be a strong point from which to launch criticism. Cheney claims the Bush administration conducted its own strategy review before they left office that had similar results, but that just seems to bolster my above point: The Bush administration implemented a strategy of 'dithering' in Afghanistan for years, and now that he's out of office, Cheney wants to lecture the Obama administration on expediency."
- Good Thing He's No Longer Veep Liberal Middle East blogger Marc Lynch sighs with relief. "Thanks, Dick Cheney - whenever I fret about Obama, you're there to buck me up and remind me of the alternative."