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Why one Democrat voted 'no' on Afghanistan

Rep. James McGovern asks, 'What is the exit strategy?'

What he won't buy, said McGovern, is the open-ended commitment that Obama is selling. The White House is saying "give us what we want, no conditions, no strings attached," he said. "But a year from now, after we escalate, we will be in that much deeper. It will be harder to get out."

McGovern, 49, is no wild-eyed radical. He has working class roots and learned the ropes in Congress by serving on the staff of the late Rep. Joe Moakley, the tough chairman of the House Rules Committee, before running for office himself. McGovern has risen quickly in the Democratic hierarchy, and is now the vice-chairman of the Rules Committee himself, a plum position for those who excel at the inside game on Capitol Hill.

The historic nature of Obama's candidacy, the end of Bush's belligerent brand of foreign policy, and the prospect of achieving health care reform and other liberal goals have filled McGovern with enthusiasm.

"I want to go along to get along. I want to be a team player. It is difficult for a Democrat to vote against a Democratic administration. I hope I am wrong," he said. "But to me these votes of war are votes of conscience."

McGovern noted that during the Bush years he had been fiercely critical of the U.S. policy on Iraq, for many of the same reasons that he now opposes Obama. He thinks the U.S. arrogantly underestimates the geographical and cultural conditions that limit American military power in that part of the world.

"How do we deal with the real issues of poverty and neglect? I do not think it is by funneling more money to a corrupt Afghan government," McGovern said.

"I am worried about the high number of civilian casualties," he said. "It makes it difficult for us to win hearts and minds.

"If my child dies because of a bomb, even if it is not intended for my kid, as a parent I will hate you 'til I die."

McGovern has read former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's memoir, detailing the mistakes that another Democratic administration made in the 1960s, blindly blundering into Vietnam. He finds parallels.

"You get into this kind of thing, and the more troops you commit and the more money you spend the less you can admit you made a mistake," he said. "You've spent so much you can't turn back."

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