Letter to President Obama - Suggested Afghanistan Policy - Follow-up
November 24, 2010
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
Please recall your instincts when you decided to run for president of the United States. No one gave you a chance, but you knew the mood of the American people and waged a brilliant campaign against all odds to win the support of the American people in a dramatic election.
I fear that you are not trusting your instincts now. You have been misled by your staff in virtually every realm of policy to concede compromises on critical issues confronting the country. I confess that I no longer can distinguish your “compromises” from capitulation to your political opponents.
As you prepare for your 2011 State of the Union Message, I strongly suggest that you recover trust in your instincts. Do what you did in Philadelphia on your racial-divisions speech.
The recent disastrous mid-term election results have emboldened Republicans to conclude that their policy is right. They are not, but they will not agree to anything that puts you in a favorable light, regardless of the damage they would do to our nation. You should position yourself in 2011 to direct policy toward what is right for the country, regardless of Republican intransigence and obstructionism. They seek to defeat you in every way they can.
You have tried hard to compromise, but as a result, you have not lived up to your campaign promise of changing the way Washington works. You need to explain to the American people the way Washington should work. This can be your legacy.
Please start with the war in Afghanistan. You campaigned against that war, and you’ve tried to do as you promised on Iraq. But as indicated in my attached letter to you a year ago, you inherited the morass in Afghanistan. Now your adversaries have labeled it “the Obama war.”
We must get out of Afghanistan. You know it. Your instinct tells you that. As Commander-in-Chief, you can do this. The threat to our national security comes from al-Qaeda and those terrorists who want to destroy America. The military has confused a civil war led by the Taliban with the larger threat to our national security posed by al-Qaeda.
You have allowed your military advisers to extend the withdrawal process to 2014. I urge you to stick with your original plan for withdrawal by the end of 2011, an action consistent with America’s long-term strategic interests in a globally coordinated campaign against international terrorism. The current, almost unilateral U.S. policy of a two-front war is not in our national interest. Too many lives have been lost, too much money spent.
Also attached is a summary report from the Afghanistan Study Group, which explains all of this clearly. But you know this instinctively.
Equally important for you as we near 2011, you should aggressively advance the cause of health care, financial regulation, the environment, education, poverty and hope for every American. The coming year will be critically important for the country as well as your re-election, because your actions in the next 12 months very well could determine the nation’s fidelity to our broad democratic principles for decades to come.
For example, in financial regulation, the banks have taken advantage of the American people. I urge you to use your leverage even further with the Federal Reserve and with the financial regulations to jawbone the banks into lending money for business growth. You may not be able to get new tax legislation passed, but you can position yourself for what’s right.
You also should use additional Federal Reserve funds to stop all foreclosures on occupied homes. You know the tragedy of Americans losing their homes. The banks don’t care. Mr. President, I implore you to use your position, in the interest of the common welfare, to make them care.
Please do not over-compromise on the extension of the tax credits for the wealthy. The wealthy have benefited enough. A possible compromise would be to limit tax increases to those with incomes greater than $250,000 in adjusted gross income and $1 million for businesses. But that’s all. These tax cuts never should have been implemented during the Bush administration in the first place, contributing as they did to the huge budget deficit that you inherited.
The country does not have enough jobs. I urge you to follow through on your plans for increased education opportunities, and use the $100 billion to be saved each year by leaving Afghanistan to improve the infrastructure in the United States, with emphasis on alternative energy, the electric grid, and transportation.
Use the presidency in 2011 to advance the nation, not further political gridlock. Start with the war and then financial regulation. Trust your instincts on the broad policies and instruct your staff to follow through by fully exercising your lawful powers on behalf of the American people.
You have an unusual opportunity as president to lay out an august and hopeful agenda, consistent with the hopes and aspirations of the American ideal. You have much the same opportunity that faced Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union messages in 1943, 1944 and 1945. Rise, Mr. President, to that opportunity.