link to theplumline.whorunsgov.com
It's another sign of the dramatic shifts in the political landscape caused by Obama's election and the economic crisis. Groups whose fundraising and membership exploded with their opposition to Bush's Iraq policies are adapting to a new world where public outrage is focused heavily on the economy and leading liberal groups suddenly have an inside track to the White House.
MoveOn.org, the most visible and controversial anti-war bugaboo to people on the right, declined to make any public statement about Obama's Afghan policies in response to my queries. An official close to the group confirmed to me that MoveOn wouldn't be saying anything in the near term. The group is expected to poll its members on Afghanistan, the official said, though it's unclear when.
MoveOn's own members were recently polled on their priorities for 2009, and Afghanistan didn't make the cut.
Nor will we hear anything from Americans United for Change, which ran $600,000 worth of TV ads against the Iraq War in the summer of 2007. "Americans United for Change doesn't plan to comment on President Obama's new strategy," a spokesperson for the group, Lauren Weiner, just emailed.
Jon Soltz, the head of VoteVets, one of the most pugnacious anti-Iraq War groups, came out in support of Obama's Afghan strategy in an Op Ed with The Huffington Post.
One group did blast the strategy today: Tom Andrews of Win Without War warned that it "will lead to quagmire" and "undermine our security."
The relative silence on the left about Obama's Afghan strategy is understandable. The politics of Afghanistan are murky because of September 11th. The argument against staying isn't as clear cut as with Iraq. Liberal groups don't want to distract from passing Obama's enormous domestic agenda. Obama's Afghan moves are part of a larger regional strategy that rests heavily on diplomacy — a major break from the past. And officials with some of these groups don't want to lose inside influence with the White House.
Times do change.