June 22nd, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Letters to the President: #884 'Keeping your balance'

Reporter's Note: President Obama will unveil his latest plans for removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan tonight. So I’m revealing some thoughts on the matter in today’s letter.

Dear Mr. President,

An oddity of tight rope walking (which, I must confess I learned only anecdotally, so it may not be true…) is that more wire walkers fall off the last few feet of rope than do out in the middle. The implication is that while they are far from safety, swaying above the center ring with their lives on the line, they have lots of concentration. Makes sense.

It also makes sense that when the walker sees the solid, safe platform just inches away after all of that wobbling around that he might let down his guard a bit. Problem is, the fall is just as high at the end of the rope as it is in the middle.

Which brings us to Afghanistan. As you lay out your big plans for the future of our troop deployments there tonight, I think the lesson of the tightrope walker is a good one to keep in mind. Yes, we have made a lot of progress. We have gained ground through the relentless efforts of our brave troops. Many have lost their lives. And maybe you are right to say that now we can start bringing some home. And maybe you are wrong.

It is for you, your political pals, and the generals to sort out the wisdom of the moves, but this I know: The final steps of any great conflict can be just as perilous as the first ones. The dangers our troops face as they slowly back away from that war must not be underestimated. Ground that has been hard won, can be easily lost.

So keep giving it a lot of thought, and focus on balance - the balance between all the different forces at play here. Because although it appears we are no longer in the middle of the wire…we are still in a perilous position.

Good luck with the speech. Call afterward if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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