In 2008, the Republican debates were largely about candidates trying to frame themselves as the most hawkish of a very hawkish group. With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul (R – TX), who was lashed by the others for his opposition, the wars in Iraq and especially Afghanistan were something to loudly cheer.
Three years later, something strange is happening to the prospective field for the 2012 primaries. Spurred by soaring costs and massive public opposition, the Afghan War is no longer a sacred cow, and Rep. Paul is no longer alone in calling for its end.
Now former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the officially designed “frontrunner” is calling for the troops to come home, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are also calling for major cutbacks.
All these suddenly less hawkish officials are leaving in the “conditions on the ground” caveat, which as we saw with President Obama’s supposed opposition to the Iraq War during the 2008 campaign (which he is now looking to continue beyond the Bush Administration’s end of 2012 deadline), campaign positions are often thrown away.
Still, in spite of the “concerns” from the hawkish for hawkishness’ sake officials like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC), it seems the public’s opposition to the war is starting to be felt politically, and the pressure is on for candidates to convince voters that, when 2016 rolls around, they won’t be wondering again where the promised change went.