Obama’s on the fence, and both the Left and the Right are rightly worried about what he might do. But the U.S. military just might save their commander-in-chief from himself.
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The conservative hawks take solace in the recent remarks of senior administration officials — Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the National Security Adviser, General James L. Jones — all of whom have labored to make clear that the July 2011 transfer date does not mark the end of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
This is a transition that is going to take place… It will be the same kind of gradual, conditions-based transition — province by province, district by district — that we saw in Iraq. But it begins — but it begins — in July 2011…
[So] we will have 100,000 forces, troops there [in Afghanistan] and they are not leaving in July of 2011. Some — [a] handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit — will begin to withdraw at that time.
The real question is whether the Afghan war is in its last throes and ending, or whether instead it’s really just begun.
Critics like to complain that the war has dragged on for more than eight years, “with no end in sight.” This is only half true. The U.S. military has been fighting essentially the same seriously under-resourced war, based on a flawed strategy, for each of the past eight years. Consequently, the war has not gone well or progressed much. In fact, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.
Now, finally and belatedly, the United States seems poised to wage an adequately resourced war based upon a sound counterinsurgency strategy. That’s why, according to General McChrystal, “things are [now] different. We have a level of commitment [now] that we have not had before, and that will change everything,” he told U.S. troops in Afghanistan last week.
But McChrystal also paraphrased Winston Churchill to explain that the war is far from over. “I don’t think this is the end. I don’t think it’s the beginning of the end. But I do believe it’s the end of the beginning,” he said.
Exactly so. Forget the past eight years, because ever since the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a vastly undersized U.S. military contingent there has been waging a rear-guard holding action — but not anymore. Now, apparently, the United States is gong to wage a classic counterinsurgency campaign tailored specifically for Afghanistan.
Thus, far from ending; the war instead is just beginning. And the question is: does the President of the United States understand this?
Perhaps not. In his speech at West Point, after all, Obama said, “we must come together to end this war successfully.” He explained the “strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion.”
But again, the war is not really concluding; it is beginning — and it could take some time to turn the situation in Afghanistan around. And if it does, will the president have the intestinal fortitude to stay the course and see things through to victory? Or will he instead demand an end to what the critics say is an “endless war”?
One thing that might save the president from his more dovish and self-destructive instincts is the U.S. military — and specifically the superb planning and warrior expertise of our officer corps coupled with the fighting spirit and martial skill of our grunts and their non-commissioned officers.
After all, these are the men and women who effected, in near record time, a dramatic turnaround of the once dire situation in Iraq. And they did so when all of the so-called experts had written off Iraq as a hopeless cause.
If our U.S. military men and women can effect an equally miraculous and quick turnaround of the situation in Afghanistan — and I wouldn’t bet against them because they’re that damn good — then President Obama may, to his great surprise, inherit an Afghanistan for which he can claim credit, if not victory, in 2012.
Oh, U.S. troops will still be there in large measure, and they’ll have to stay in Afghanistan for some time. But by 2012 perhaps, the situation in Afghanistan will have stabilized, and U.S. military casualties will be few and far between. Afghanistan then will have receded from the front pages of our laptops and our iPhones to become essentially not that big a deal for either the politicians or the American people.
I have no doubt that, if President Obama allows it, that will happen at some point. It is, in large measure, what has already happened in Iraq. I just don’t know whether the situation in Afghanistan can be turned around by 2012. I also don’t know what the president is thinking, nor what he will do when tested. We will see.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?