When Barack Obama was running for president, he put forward the idea that the war in Iraq had been no more than a distraction from the just war in Afghanistan. I, on the other hand, who was running for nothing, put forward the idea that he had gotten this just the wrong way round. Afghanistan is a tribal wasteland that can’t be tamed without unthinkable effort, whereas securing Iraq as an America-friendly democracy situated on the borders of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia might actually be an important victory in the fight against Islamo-fascism. But of course, as we know, Obama is uncomfortable with the word “victory,” because as a student of history, he’s reminded of when Emperor Hirohito surrendered to General Westmoreland aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. Or, you know… something historical like that.
So now, after instituting policies that increased the number of American casualties in Afghanistan five-fold, Obama begins a withdrawal that can only reverse any gains those policies achieved. The Taliban aren’t idiots. They will bide their time and return to slaughter anyone who stood against them the moment we’re no longer there to defend them. The Afghan security forces on whom Obama is counting will ultimately join whatever side seems most likely to win. I really don’t see how this can turn out any other way.
This is not to say I think we should stay. I didn’t think we should have surged in the first place. I thought we should have drawn down our forces in Afghanistan and focused them instead on securing the victory in Iraq, thus insuring the presence of an ally in the region and encouraging a democratic trend to the Arab spring… instead of what’s probably going to happen now. I don’t think it’s “isolationist,” to pick your fights.
But Obama can’t do what’s right overseas anymore than he can do what’s right here because his thinking is based on incorrect premises, and those premises are kept in place by the political power of his left-wing base. Bush mishandled the war in Iraq for far too long, it’s true, but he had — or was developing — the right idea. The War on Terror is not a state-based war but an ideological one. It will be won, if it is won, by establishing and maintaining oases of better ideology in the midst of the enemy. I have no doubt our military could do that in Afghanistan given enough money and men and time, but I think the price is too high and we shouldn’t pay it… not when we’ve already done the job in Iraq. As with the economy, so with the war, Obama hasn’t really a clue.
All right, it’s just one man’s opinion. But while I’m at it, here’s another: Whether I’m right or wrong, whether he’s ultimately right or wrong, Obama’s speech was a drab business, a purely political statement meant to cast blame on Bush and nab war credit for himself while at the same time positioning himself as a peace-nik in time for the election. While there are men still out there getting shot and killed, I say: Nuts.