“This is not a war of choice; this is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9-11 are plotting to do so again…………..So this is not only a war worth fighting; this is fundamental to the defense of our people.”–President Barack Obama, speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, August 17, 2009.
Well, that was then. Now it appears that we are rethinking that bold commitment and conviction. For almost eight years, Afghanistan has been the “good war”, particularly for the left, and was used by Democrats as the abused policy stepchild for continuing criticism of Bush’s Iraq venture, even after the surge in Iraq turned defeat into victory. I’m not cynical by nature, but forgive me if it now appears that this “good war” rhetoric was never anything more than a facade for the true passion of the left to avoid any assertion of American military power. Now we hear that a re-evaluation of the strategy announced last March is being conducted before responding to the commanding general’s request for additional resources, including troops, to complete the mission. And what is the mission? I can’t remember hearing a clear answer from the Obama administration, particularly one that includes the word victory.
Professor Fouad Ajami reminds us that it was not Afghans who struck America on 9-11. It was Arabs, and their terrorism was informed by the pathologies of Arab and Muslim political life. Therefore, it was important to take the war into the Arab world. George W. Bush did this, not without a number of mistakes, but also with a number of important victories, and the key thing to remember is that this is a war with many fronts that must be waged over a protracted period of time with persistence, a trait not exactly one of America’s great virtues since the Vietnam experience.
President Obama is on the eve of a watershed policy decision. Success is absolutely necessary, but will require a sustained commitment of many more years, the implementation of which will require the best of his exquisite skills of eloquence in articulation in the face of a political base that will be a very difficult sale at best. He was correct in his August remarks to the VFW–any bets that he will reconfirm those convictions on the ground in the war zone?
No victory, no peace.