Support for Afghan war plummets as the military looks for a salesman

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A new Washington Post-ABC News poll says more Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan than approve of it, just as the military is looking for a new salesman for continued fighting there. The 49 percent disapproval rating (44 percent still support Obama’s war effort) is the worst of Obama’s presidency and the Post says those numbers have flipped since January, when 49 percent polled said they supported Obama’s management of the war.

What’s probably more frightening for the White House are these graphs from the Post today:

The poll released Monday showed that a majority of self-identified independents — 53 percent — disapprove of Obama’s handling of the war.

Independents were an essential part of the coalition that elected him in 2008, and the White House has been seeking to win back those voters as 2012 nears.

Meanwhile, in a fine article on April 18, the Post’s Greg Jaffe noted that the military will not make Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan when Gen. David Petraeus leaves later this year. That article explores how Rodriguez is the most experienced general in Afghanistan, and that Rodriguez can rattle off battlefield statistics, and how Gen Stanley A. McChrystal  calls him the “best combat leader I have ever known.”

And then comes this:

But Rodriguez will not be leading the war in Afghanistan anytime soon. This summer he will be returning home to the United States to take over U.S. Army Forces Command, a four-star job in the Army’s vast stateside bureaucracy. The decision to bypass Rodriguez for the top job reflects a determination among senior Pentagon officials that the war needs a commander who can make the case for the increasingly unpopular conflict to Congress, the news media and skeptics in the White House.

It seems the military doesn’t need to wait for a poll to see which way the wind is blowing. The Pentagon should beware, however, since U.S. history is generally unkind to military efforts that drag on against deep public skepticism. The reality is that people have grown tired of ten years of headlines suggesting that the decisive battle is at hand, or victory is just around some upcoming corner, or it could all work out if we just used more ground troops.