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What I Don't Know About Afghanistan

A Commentary By Susan Estrich

People keep asking me whether I agree with the president's troop surge in Afghanistan. I am a lawyer. I know what to do with a hard question: Answer another one that is so similar that even the person asking may not notice you've changed it. So I answer that I absolutely support the president on this one, that I absolutely approve of the process and the decision and the way he's handling his responsibility as commander in chief.

That's what I say to conservatives, and they say how smart I am, which is always nice to hear, even if not always earned. On this subject, I am only smart enough to know what I don't know.

To liberals who ask whether I agree with the president, I look at them as if they are absolutely out of their minds and tell them the whole unvarnished truthful answer to the question they actually asked: I haven't got a clue.

Oh, maybe a clue, but not much more. Hardly enough to agree, much less disagree, which is what my liberal friends are doing a lot of on this one, and what they are about to do with me until they confront my absolutely genuine inability to answer their actual question.

Don't know. Really. If I did, God knows, I would've called him and spared him the agony.

Barack Obama did not spend many meetings and many weeks making a decision because a long process was going to win him political points. Actually, it cost him points on all sides. It didn't take him so long to decide because he's slow to understand easy stuff, but because this is a miserably difficult situation with no good answers.

What a smart person -- and Obama is certainly a very smart person -- does when confronted with the hardest problem in the world is take time to meet with the people who know the most. Push and listen and ask questions and review options until you are sure you know and understand all of the terrible choices you have. And then make the decision.

Obama has done this. I haven't. He's been briefed by military and intelligence officials. He's read all the classified stuff, which, according to anyone who has read any of it, is so terrifying that you don't want to know. I certainly don't.

I've actually done a lot of reading about Afghanistan and Pakistan. I've done legal work related to that area. There are no easy answers here; nothing people would want to hear in a 30-second bite. This one is really hard. Heads you lose; tails you lose more. I'm not sure which is heads or tails. This is not one I can second-guess from the grandstands based on a cruise of the morning blogs. Why are we listening to people who are doing no more than that? It's not even the right question.

This is why we elect presidents. I don't need to agree. I do approve.

I believe in the intelligence and integrity of the man who made this decision. I believe he made it based on his best judgment as to what is best for the country. I believe he made it knowing it would cost the lives of soldiers, young men and women whose lives he values greatly, and that he would be blamed for that, and would always shoulder that responsibility. I believe he made it knowing it is far from certain that we will meet any of the withdrawal deadlines, and that he is exposing himself to a much longer and more expensive commitment. I believe he made it because he believes it is the right decision to protect our country and our children. That is enough for me.


See Other Political Commentaries

See Other Commentaries by Susan Estrich

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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