Over on economists view, "anne" has been vigorously denouncing Obama's speeches about Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indeed it was a centerpiece of his dramatic speech in Berlin yesterday. Of course he has been able to effectively beat Bush and McCain over the head with how going into Iraq let the US not catch bin Laden and mess things up in Afghanistan, and clearly it is good electoral politics in the US now to take a hawkish position on Afghanistan/Pakistan. The question is whether it will prove to be such a good idea to follow through on all this hawkish talk if he does get elected (which is far from obvious, given that polls have actually been moving towards McCain in this week when Obama has had it about as good as it gets, while McCain has bungling around all over the Sausage Haus of Columbus, Ohio).
After all, as "anne" points out, it was Democratic presidents, Kennedy and then Johnson, who really got us deep into Vietnam, pushed by a pressure not to appear "weak on Communism." If he gets in Obama will certainly be feeling such pressure about being the "War on Terror," which most of us know is a bad misnomer, especially if he does follow through on seriously removing troops from Iraq. Maybe things will go well in Afghanistan/Pakistan, but there are plenty of reasons to be worried, especially about the Pakistan part, where the central government does not want us going in unilaterally, but clearly where the guys we most want to get are hanging out. While Karzai wants us in Afghanistan, the situation there seems to have been gradually deteriorating, and it is far from clear that increasing US (or European) troop presence there will help more than it will hurt by alienating the local population, as happened in Iraq before (and Vietnam longer ago). Overly ambitious promises and an unresolvable situation on the ground could indeed sour an Obama presidency, making those countries his Vietnam. Let us hope not.