December 1st, 2009
11:50 AM ET

Dear President Obama #316: And now the plan for Afghanistan

Reporter's Note: President Obama will finally unveil his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan tonight, and military families in particular, coast to coast, will be watching. The subject of my daily letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time comes from The Pope of Greenwich Village. Mobsters are about to appropriate a character’s thumb, and he asks an older man for advice. The guy says something like, “If I were you, I’d wrap my belt around my wrist, hurry to the nearest hospital, and remember, it’s never as bad as it seems.”

When you make your big announcement about Afghanistan tonight, after all the months of anticipation, I can assure you there will be sharp, bitter complaints, and in all likelihood they will come from both sides of the political spectrum. Some on the left will say you sold them out; some on the right will say you are still not committed to seeing the battle through; and who knows, maybe some in the middle will have something to say too.

All I say is brace yourself. Wrap your convictions and the advice of your generals around yourself, and hold on. You are making one of the most difficult decisions for any president, because almost without question people will die as a result of what you say tonight. It may be our troops, it may be the enemy, it may be allied soldiers from other lands, it may be civilians, and most likely it will be a combination of all those.

And your job, to some degree, is to face the resulting fury with passionless calm, and steady consideration of the best course despite the noise. You must simultaneously have blind allegiance to the good of your troops and your country, and ready compassion for the cost of war on both sides of the battlefield. You must utterly trust your own judgment, and yet make allowance for the ideas of others, even those who oppose you. Most of all, as I have said before, you must push the political considerations as far away as possible. Many political careers have been made, and just as many have been broken by wars. But that, if I maybe so bold, should never be war’s purpose, and the political cost of a war to a president should never be his reason for staying in or getting out of a fight.

Again, take it on faith: You are going to take political beating over this. But take this on faith too, if you have made your decision with a mind for what is right, not merely what is expedient; if you have considered the will of the nation, and the needs of the moment; if you have taken to your heart what it means to be Commander in Chief and to love your troops with the selflessness that any Commander worthy of the title should possess; it’s never as bad as it seems.

And after all, our troops in the field face much worse every single day, and yet they serve on…fearlessly, with dedication and patriotism. The least we can do is the same.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Blanca

    Love you, TF. Keep on writing your letters. We all need clarity these times.

    December 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  2. MR.AL

    Mr. Obama

    I don't agree about sending more troops to be sent to Afghanistan I don't agree on any more war in the middle east. But your decission is what most Conservative Lawmakers want. I don't know what your reasons are for sending more troops, but I'm sure America will find out tonight. I just pray to god that he blesses the troops and returns them safely back to America. These wars have envolved America since G.H.W BUSH and need to be over.

    December 1, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  3. Tim Gibson

    While we give thanks to our noble and brave troops we wait for Obama to come out from behind closed doors and reveal what will no doubt be a defining moment for his position.

    Yet, confidence for decisions made outside of a political career are low. Belief that any decision made from our leadership is based on anything other than advancement within the rank and file on the hill and a thrust for power, regardless of the outcome is a reality for a failure to impose term limits on such trappings of corruption.

    Can we convince the people of Afghanistan that we can provide them with the tools and the power to protect themselves when our own national security has become the international joke of the decade. Can Obama repair the damaged image of a broken nation in decline and can our economy withstand much more of the economic drain of war, bailouts and failures from political decisions yeilded behind the drop of the guillotine upon reason.

    What position does one take to brace for impact? Can corruption win over corruption and why are we forced to even ask ourselves a question like that.

    December 1, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  4. Kim

    God Bless the fight for national security,energy independence,our troops and their loved ones. Happy Holidays ! Thank-you for being there !

    December 1, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  5. alex lyrics

    I was so sure that President Obama would end this war.

    I hope that he has a short time line even if it is kept top secret from the press.

    Those soldiers are going crazy after 8 years of war. We owe it to them to truly be there for them and their medical needs when they return.

    These hero's are coming home mentally a wreck.

    God look over our men and women in uniform.

    Please Mr. President, don't abandon our soldiers to alcohol, drugs, and the streets when they get home like the Vietnam soldiers.

    December 1, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Michelle

    God Bless Our troops and the civilians in harms way,I pray this ends the war quickly.

    December 1, 2009 at 10:31 am |