George Will is not Walter Cronkite, the highly-respected, iconic CBS anchor whose growing suspicion of American involvement in Vietnam caused Lyndon Johnson to lament: If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”
Still, Will is a leading member of the conservative establishment, a popular syndicated columnist and TV commentator whose opinions carry some weight in Washington and with the conservative base. And he has called for American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Even as Obama wrestles with the toughest and most ambitious domestic agenda of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, his foreign policy proposals are becoming increasingly contentious (like Johnson’s.) A Washington Post-ABC news poll conducted last month had shown that a slight majority of Americans have already turned against US involvement in Afghanistan.
In that poll, however, conservatives still favored the war, while liberals were opposed.
Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.
Republicans (70 percent say it is worth fighting) and conservatives (58 percent) remain the war’s strongest backers, and the issue provides a rare point of GOP support for Obama’s policies. A narrow majority of conservatives approve of the president’s handling of the war (52 percent), as do more than four in 10 Republicans (43 percent).
But if a leading conservative like Will has already turned against the war, that suggests that Obama will be leaning into strong headwinds if he tries to send even more troops. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is expected to request more fighting men (and women) in the next few days.
It’s too bad a leading conservative like Will didn’t come out against the invasion of Iraq much sooner. (Will eventually turned against it, but that was years after the overthrow of Saddam.) Perhaps Bush and Cheney would have had second thoughts, and those valuable years could have been spent finding bin Laden and chasing down the Taliban.
Afghanistan might no longer be a threat if Bush had been serious about that war when he began it.