Antiwar activists split over Obama's Afghanistan policy
Lawmakers and others who were against the Iraq war generally support the president. But they worry about another 'quagmire.'
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But even before they confront the president, Democrats are confronting concerns at home about the new direction of the war in Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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Rep. Paul Hodes (D) of New Hampshire, who campaigned against the war in Iraq, saw the first anti-war protests of the Obama administration last month in his hometown of Concord. Even though the protests are small, he says he needs to explain his stance to voters, and the situation is "difficult and complex."
"I opposed the war in Iraq because it was not merely a diversion from the effort that we need to make to battle terrorism, not merely because it was sold on false premises, but because it made us less safe and secure as a country and a world," he says.
"I have long believed that our efforts needed to be directed to Pakistan and Afghanistan in a coherent way with a comprehensive strategy that does not rely on military force alone," he adds.
"We're very concerned that the president announced the increase in troops even before having a coherent plan in place," says Anne Miller, executive director of Peace Action of New Hampshire, which claims some 3,000 members statewide.
"We're still not clear what this plan will accomplish, what benchmarks are, what a win would look like," she adds. "We have colleagues that just got back from Kabul and not one Afghani they spoke to thought that having more troops there would make a difference."
For the most part, Americans aren't focused on the war in Afghanistan, pollsters say. Wall Street and the economy are much bigger concerns, but that's beginning to shift, too.
"Americans like their wars to be won and short. But President Obama is still getting some slack, as far as the public is concerned," he adds.
As candidate, Obama clearly signaled his intent as president to withdraw US forces from Iraq to refocus energies on the war in Afghanistan. That clarity helps give credibility to the steps he's taking now, say Congress watchers.
"You've got a lot of antiwar liberals who said he didn't really mean that – that he's just talking that way to look tough. What we're learning is that, like many things he's doing on the domestic front, he's doing what he said," says Norman Ornstein a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
"He's got a year – and the protests will start before that," he adds. "If it looks like we're bogged down and lot of Americans are dying, we're in a different situation."