George Will calls for pullout from Afghanistan

The conservative columnist says the U.S. should withdraw its troops, "do only what can be done from offshore"

Published August 31, 2009 11:45PM (EDT)

It's never all that surprising to see a major conservative columnist criticizing some major initiative of President Obama's. But it is a little strange to read George Will's latest column, which goes at the president from the left on the subject of Afghanistan, and calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

It's an interesting piece, one bound to get some attention, but it's almost certainly not going to be a Cronkite and Vietnam moment. In part, that's due to the same factor that allowed Obama the political breathing room for escalation -- the tendency on the left to view Afghanistan as the Good War, a war of necessity in contrast to former President Bush's war of choice in Iraq.

It's also because Will doesn't hold the sway he used to, because there aren't many Republicans like him left. The blue-blood East Coast GOP'er -- economically conservative, socially moderate -- is all but extinct these days; there isn't a single New England Republican in the House of Representatives anymore. You're definitely not going to see, say, Sarah Palin quoting de Gaulle on Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian War, as Will did in this latest column. (And no, he didn't use first names or titles for either de Gaulle or Bismarck -- such things are for commoners.)

So the other side of the right, the one that's come to dominate the Republican Party these days, isn't likely to respond favorably to Will's suggestion, even if it does mean opposing a proposal of Obama's. In fact, at the National Review -- where Will once worked -- they're already criticizing him.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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