In an interview last Thursday, the Senate’s top Democrat, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said he doubted the U.S. military would be successful in Afghanistan. Aides rushed to say that Senator Reid supports the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, but failed to clarify unfortunate remarks by the Senate Majority Leader in which he suggests that Americans are right to have a short attention span on the Afghanistan war.
Senator Reid offered these comments on the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan led by General David Petraeus:
“I don’t think – I’m not confident that it's going to
work. I'm happy to see that -- I have talked to General Petraeus in the room
next door here a couple of weeks ago, and he thinks things are going well. I
have great respect for him. I hope it’s going well. But the American
people have, and rightfully so, a very short attention span. We cannot continue
to keep dumping this money.”
When asked about Senator Reid’s remarks, his spokesman said Friday that Senator Reid is fully behind the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. If both of these comments are to be believed, Senator Reid fully supports a strategy he does not think will work, or at least in which he lacks confidence. Equally puzzling was Senator Reid’s remark that Americans are right to have a short attention span on the Afghanistan war. This comment is difficult to understand at best, but nonetheless unfortunate.
Clearly Americans are focused on a number of issues, perhaps chief among these is the U.S. economy. However, this is no time to embrace a lack of focus on our military effort in Afghanistan. Over the past year or more, top Defense Department and military officials have been warning about a “gap” or “split” between the military and the general population. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has warned of a “growing disconnect between the American people and the military.” Former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) earlier this year expressed similar concerns saying that “those who protect us are psychologically divorced from those who are being protected.” It is the responsibility of elected leaders to communicate to Americans the importance of our military effort in Afghanistan and the contribution our military is making to our national security, not to worsen the psychological divide.