The war of words over foreign policy is back on between former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Obama administration.
In a speech Wednesday night, Cheney suggested that the president was afraid to decide whether to send more US troops to Afghanistan and that's why it is taking so long.
"The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger," Cheney told the conservative Center for Security Policy. "It's time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity."
"Make no mistake. Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries," Cheney added, according to the Associated Press.
He also disputed remarks by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on talk shows over the weekend that the Obama administration had to start from scratch to come up with an Afghanistan strategy because the Bush administration let the situation slide.
Cheney said the Bush team reviewed the eight-year-old war before leaving office and presented its findings to Obama's transition team. "They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt," he said.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs took on Cheney today, saying that Obama is making sure he gets the strategy right.
"What Vice President Cheney calls dithering, President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public. I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously," Gibbs said during his daily briefing.
The spokesman also hit back at the Bush-Cheney team, saying it allowed the situation to worsen in Afghanistan and asserting the 21,000-troop increase that Obama approved in March had been sitting on the desk of the Bush White House for months.
Calling Cheney's comment "curious," Gibbs said, "I think it's pretty safe to say that the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan, even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president's, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March."
"I find it interesting that he's blaming us for something that he didn't see fit to do over, best I can tell, seven years of a war in Afghanistan," Gibbs added.
UPDATE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also came to the president's defense.
"The president has a very difficult decision to make," she told reporters this afternoon on Capitol Hill. "He's got to have the facts to make that. We all pray for the difficult decision he has to make. I don't think it's very constructive for the vice president to say that - he's forgotten whose administration made matters worse in Afghanistan by their neglect."
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who sits on the Armed Services Committee and has visited Afghanistan, also said Obama is right to take the time for a full policy review.
"They say that elephants don't forget, but it looks like many members of the Republican Party have a mass case of amnesia. The same politicians who were demanding that the current president stop dithering and do whatever his generals suggest forget that the previous administration ignored and under resourced our commanders and soldiers in Afghanistan for nearly eight years," Reed said at a news conference.
Saying he found Cheney's comments "very puzzling," Reid asked, "Why didn't the former vice president ask George Bush to just do what it takes to win in Afghanistan for the seven years when he was in office, instead of blindly rushing into Iraq and allowing Afghanistan to drift into chaos?"
"I voted against the Iraq war in part because I knew it would shift the focus and hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of our troops away from Afghanistan, the area where our greatest threat emanates from," Reed added. "And had the Bush administration conducted a thorough review and looked at all the facts prior to the invasion of Iraq, they might have avoided a major foreign policy disaster that also has ended up crippling our economy back home."
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee also sided with Obama.
"I think President Obama is entitled to take sufficient time to decide what our long-term role ought to be in Afghanistan," Alexander said on MSNBC. "Then I think he should come to Congress and say to the American people what that plan is and see if he can persuade us and all of the American people of the rightness of it because he needs to have support all the way through to the end of that mission, so I want him to take the time to get it right."
Cheney's reappearance on the public stage also brought a sharp rebuke from a liberal-leaning security think tank.
"The record is clear: Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were incompetent war fighters," National Security Network senior adviser, retired General Paul Eaton, said in a statement. "They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare best illustrated by: 1. Deny it. 2. Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.
"The only time Cheney and his cabal of foreign policy 'experts' have anything to say is when they feel compelled to protect this failed legacy. While President Obama is tasked with cleaning up the considerable mess they left behind, they continue to defend torture or rewrite a legacy of indifference on Afghanistan. Simply put, Mr. Cheney sees history throughout extremely myopic and partisan eyes," continued Eaton, who served more than 30 years in the United States Army and from 2003-2004 oversaw the training of the Iraqi military.
"As one deeply invested in the Armed Forces of this country, I am grateful for the senior military commanders assigned to leading this fight and the men and women fighting on the ground. But I dismiss men like Cheney who inject partisan politics into the profound deliberations our Commander-in-Chief and commanders on the ground are having to develop a cohesive and comprehensive strategy, bringing to bear the economic and diplomatic as well as the military power, for Afghanistan -- something Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld never did. No human endeavor can be as profound as sending a nation's youth to war. I am very happy to see serious men and women working hard to get it right."
The former vice president had lain rather low since the remarkable, high-profile face-off in May with Obama on the war on terror.
In back-to-back speeches before different audiences, Obama and Cheney each forcefully laid out their sharply different views on how to keep America safe from terrorism, the effectiveness of harsh interrogations, and whether the Guantanamo Bay detainees pose an imminent danger if brought to US soil.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.