To date President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy has been by the most charitable description a muddle. It is to be expected. To anyone paying attention to his August 2007 speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars would have picked up on the fact that his critique for doing well what he claimed President Bush was doing inadequately rested in equal parts on wishful thinking and pathetic ignorance. Since his beatification in January 2009 nothing has changed.
The reason why Obama will fail in Afghanistan and manage to create defeat out of victory in Iraq rests as much in his Hyde Park neighborhood and his close friends, terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn, as it does on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq or in the embassies of nations with interests there.
Obama carries deep within his psyche the left’s disdain for the military and a conviction that military power is, if not irrelevant, at best some kind of a brutal Western Union best used to send a message. This is coupled with a deep seated suspicion of US motives and hostile to anything that builds US prestige. Paradoxically, these feelings persist even while in power so now you have the spectacle of Obama taking rather Carteresque actions like apologizing for the US left-right-and-center and treating all manner of pissant despots as the moral, economic, and political equals of the United States.
If there is any statement that has best summarized Obama’s feelings on Afghanistan it was his interview in which he proclaimed that he was worried about using the word, “victory.”
“I’m always worried about using the word victory because it evokes the notion of Emperor Hirohito [Editor’s note: who knew this happened?] coming down and signing the surrender with MacArthur. We’re not dealing with nation states at this point, we’re concerned with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, al-Qaeda’s allies. So what you have is a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al-Qaeda. Our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States.”
Actually, victory evokes the notion of winning. Numerous insurgencies have failed, e.g. the communists in Greece and El Salvador, non-communists in post-war Soviet Union, and none of these occasions have given rise to a formal surrender ceremony. A defeated insurgency simply withers away and disappears. How any person with pretensions to even the most modest level of intelligence would believe that a non-state actor can’t be vanquished they won’t show up at a surrender ceremony (or given Obama’s level of familiarity with American history he could have meant because the battleship USS Missouri has been decommissioned and Emperor Hirohito is dead), and why that wouldn’t be a “victory” simply leaves one reeling with disbelief.
So President Obama is confronted with a winnable war in Afghanistan. He has an experienced, combat hardened military which has demonstrated that it can not only defeat the enemy on the battlefield but deliver civil action projects to strengthen governance. He has resources available to devote to the war that President Bush did not have. He has a cadre of leaders at all levels who understand counterinsurgency like perhaps no other military in the history of warfare.
Progress is not being made because it is not in the interests of Obama’s politics that progress should be made if that progress is driven by military success. Such success would forever discredit the left’s fatuous notion that you can negotiate with killers and madmen.
We should also prepare ourselves for Obama to begin blaming his failures in Afghanistan and Iraq on the negligence of President Bush in order to set the stage for him to run against Bush again in 2012.