Hats off to Senator Merkley.
On Wednesday, Oregon's junior senator and 23 others signed and delivered a letter to President Obama, urging an accelerated withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan. Then, yesterday, the full Senate adopted the letter by a vote of 62 to 33. Perhaps as an indication of the degree of war-weariness dragging on the country, the "ayes" included 13 Republicans.
(Although Oregon's senior senator, Ron Wyden, signed the original letter, for some reason he did not participate in the full Senate vote. Sigh. Aren't you getting ready to retire, Ron? Maybe that would be for the best...)
The administration has already set a date, the end of 2014, as the goal to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan. If it adheres to that schedule, we will have been militarily engaged in that country for 13 years --the longest war in the history of the United States. As explained in the letter, the United States is spending $10 billion per month on the effort in Afghanistan, which is not to mention the 2000+ casualties we've sustained since the obscenely-named "Operation Enduring Freedom" began. (And should I mention the nearly 13,000 civilian casualties? Or would that be in poor taste?)
This letter reminds and remonstrates the President: Part of the reason you were elected is because supporters believed you would get us untangled from the Afghanistan nightmare. It is time to make that happen.
Will it make a difference? Hard to say. In its first term, the Obama administration stuck pretty closely to the playbook advocated by top brass military. Undoubtedly and perhaps despite his personal sentiments, President Obama played it that way in order to avoid the typical Republican "national security" attack when he ran for reelection. Well, as we all know, that bird has flown, so the President has more of a free hand when it comes to these matters.
But, perhaps and at the very least, Senator Merkley's advocacy for a quick withdrawal is symptomatic of something else. Might it be that liberal and progressive lawmakers are growing more assertive, pushing on President Obama from the left? If so, that would be an unlooked-for but welcome result of this month's sweeping repudiation of the political Right in the national election.
Thanks, Senator Merkley. Keep up the good work!