Times Finally Finds a Place to Cut Spending: Afghanistan

The New York Times may flinch at the thought of cutting Medicare or unemployment benefits to cut deficits, but reporters have quickly warmed to the idea of a speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan in the name of cost-cutting.

Reporter Michael Cooper spied an anti-war revival on Tuesday in 'Mayors Call for a Quicker End to Wars So Money Can Be Used for Needs at Home,' picking up on a release from the liberal U.S. Conference of Mayors (once notorious for issuing factually malnourished hunger statistics around the holidays suggesting North Korea-like levels of hunger in America):

The resolution that the United States Conference of Mayors passed on Monday calling on President Obama and Congress to 'speed up the ending' of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was not nearly as strong as the one it passed 40 years ago, calling on President Richard M. Nixon to withdraw all American troops from Vietnam within six months....But it was nonetheless a remarkable signal of both the nation's spreading war weariness and the lingering pain that the economic downturn has wrought on the nation's cities.

The same argument for withdrawal was made in Wednesday's lead story by Helene Cooper, 'Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending – Urgent Domestic Needs – Critics and Allies Press Obama to Redirect Afghan Funds.'

President Obama will talk about troop numbers in Afghanistan when he makes a prime-time speech from the White House on Wednesday night. But behind his words will be an acute awareness of what $1.3 trillion in spending on two wars in the past decade has meant at home: a ballooning budget deficit and a soaring national debt at a time when the economy is still struggling to get back on its feet.

As Mr. Obama begins trying to untangle the country from its military and civilian promises in Afghanistan, his critics and allies alike are drawing a direct line between what is not being spent to bolster the sagging economy in America to what is being spent in Afghanistan - $120 billion this year alone.

On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors made that connection explicitly, saying that American taxes should be paying for bridges in Baltimore and Kansas City, not in Baghdad and Kandahar.

The mayors' group approved a resolution calling for an early end to the American military role in Afghanistan and Iraq, asking Congress to redirect the billions now being spent on war and reconstruction costs toward urgent domestic needs. The resolution, which noted that local governments cut 28,000 jobs in May alone, was the group's first venture into foreign policy since it passed a resolution four decades ago calling for an end to the Vietnam War.

And in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said: 'We can no longer, in good conscience, cut services and programs at home, raise taxes or - and this is very important - lift the debt ceiling in order to fund nation-building in Afghanistan. The question the president faces - we all face - is quite simple: Will we choose to rebuild America or Afghanistan? In light of our nation's fiscal peril, we cannot do both.'

Cooper later restated the argument from the liberal mayors' group.

In Washington, the argument over whether the United States should be building bridges in Kandahar or Cleveland is bound to grow even louder as the 2012 election campaign heats up.