What’s Their Mission, Mr. President? – by Matt Gurney

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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It seems strange to recall now, but there was a time when Barack Obama assailed the Bush administration for what he saw as its lax commitment to the military campaign in Afghanistan and promised to give that war the urgent priority it deserved. But despite his earlier attempts to cast Afghanistan as the “good war,” President Obama seems determined to avoid actually fighting it.

In recent months, Obama has indicated that he would like to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible – even if that means cutting a deal with the Taliban. It’s a telling reversal: Along with many in his party, Obama used his support of the war in Afghanistan to cultivate a tough-on-defense image during the presidential campaign. Now, as the war grows unpopular, he seems to be having second thoughts about the conflict. Thus, Obama has dawdled on the critical foreign policy decision of his administration: whether to send the additional 40,000 troops that his hand-picked commander, General Stanley McChrystal, believes necessary to winning the war.

General McChrystal is the proverbial “wise old man” when it comes to defeating insurgencies, having overseen the successful American counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq. With the benefit of that experience, McChrystal has made clear that the only way to defeat insurgencies is to protect the local population from attacks by insurgents. Only then can coalition forces gain the cooperation of locals, marginalize the insurgents, and stabilize the country. It was this hard-won expertise that prompted President Obama to fire the former leader of forces in Afghanistan, the well-respected General David McKiernan, in order to give McChrystal the reins.

But having placed McChrystal in charge, the president now appears reluctant to let him complete his mission. Although McChrystal has not formally requested the 40,000 troops, it has been known for some time that he considers this troop surge – modeled on a similar buildup in Iraq – essential to pacifying Afghanistan and turning the tide against the Taliban insurgency. On that all-important decision, the president has been A.W.O.L.

Instead, there has been some indication that Obama may defer to the plan supported by Vice President Biden. Biden wishes to see America largely pull out of Afghanistan. Rather than a conventional occupation, he foresees a war in which NATO limits its operations to counter-insurgency efforts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, with an emphasis on remotely guided long-range attacks inside Afghanistan wherever al-Qaeda gains traction. The people of Afghanistan would be left to sort their nation out on their own, with vastly reduced rebuilding and security operations by NATO, if any. The “good war” would be no more.

In its defense, such a strategy would have the benefit of dramatically reducing the number of American and coalition casualties on the ground in Afghanistan, where IEDs continue to take a heavy toll on American and other coalition soldiers and ordinary Afghans alike. But it also would represent a failure of the last eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, a betrayal of the Afghan people, and the effective surrender of the country to the Taliban.

That’s precisely why General McChrystal opposes it. Speaking to a gathering of academics and strategic experts in London recently, McChrystal was asked what he thought of proposals that NATO abandon the current strategy in Afghanistan and switch from nation-building to containment, relying on long-range attacks with cruise missiles and drones to prevent the Taliban from returning to power. Without mentioning Biden by name, McChrystal’s response was unambiguous: “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan stable is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

That strategy does have support on the Left – including among many Democrats. In a sense, this is curious. The Left often laments that fighting terrorists creates more terrorists. But how many more terrorists would be created if a broken country was left to for the Taliban to claim? For a real-life example, look no further than the Gaza Strip, which has become nothing more than a morass of terrorists and their human shields. This is what many on the Left propose to do with an entire nation.

While the president of course needs time to weigh his options, consult with experts, and meet with his military commanders and Cabinet secretaries, it is worth noting that in the past six weeks, 60 more American soldiers have died, along with eleven Britons, four Canadians, and more than a dozen other allied troops. How many more will die before the president is prepared to say what their mission is?

  • 301

    Biden came up with his Afghan policy while sitting at the counter of Maggie's Restaurant back in 1985. He is such a progressive thinker.

  • CowboyUp

    Hussein is too busy playing President to be President.

  • MaryAnn

    Obama dithers, soldiers die. All in or all out, but Obama is too much of a coward to decide. He does find the time to fight for the Olympics and gay rights, he just can't find the moral courage to fight for his country. The man is reprehensible.

  • USMCSniper

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill:

    Their mission is victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.

    If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of victory. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, and only a small chance of survival.

    Mr President, if you think the Muslims will abandon their Jihad to make the worls an Islamic theocracy if we assume a Dhimmitude status then you are worse than a coward, you are a dangerous stupid coward?

  • MaryAnn

    Good post. I doubt Churchill is on Obama's reading list.

  • josephwiess

    I'd rather spend the money and win this war, than yet once again break our word to the rest of the world. If we don't keep our word, then all the stupid peace prizes in the world won't save us when the radical muslims agitate their countrymen, who will then hate us for walking out on them.

    If this crew had been in charge during WWII, we'd have stopped after the first hour at the beaches of Normandy.

    We need to call them what they are: Cowards.

  • aaronlewis142
  • halkohn

    Joe Biden, the dumbest ass in the Senate for years, is now in charge?
    Maybe he can promote free hair plugs for the Taliban, and they will like us.

  • bravobilly

    One time I do not want to agree with Senator Biden, whoops thats right, Mr Vice President…But, I really want to get the hell out of Afghanistan, because its getting to look more and more like Viet Nam. Change the name, change the age, change the geography and the blood is all the same after a while. Only thing is these poor boys get blown to bits…So when your're moving on the buses to make room for someone, he might be a Veteran looking at the greybearded old Veteran at the Courthouse trying to hustle for a drink or on his way to an AA meeting on the bus.

  • MizPris

    Yes, in fact the WH has chosen instead to go to war with Fox News. That, he deems, is more of a threat. Like i've said before, this president has no problem warring against the Constitution and free speech. He has no problem with our military holding down the fort in Afghanistan while knowing his hand-picked General has asked for reinforcements.

    The General is not into politics, he's into winning, and his military responsibility. Imagine that! Good for the General.

    Meanwhile Obama fiddles and dithers, taking on a news outlet. How decisive. How brave, proving once again that a thugocracy is nothing if not dictatorial at home, and spineless when action requires real risk of losing popularity with others who give him meaningless prizes. God help us!

  • AlFranken1

    It was a great post until the last paragraph because Sniper it too much of an idiot to know who Churchill really is”

    Churchill is a progressive liberal.

    I bet neither one of you knuckleheads knew that!

    So quoting a liberal as a great leader to somehow put a stupid spin on it to bash another supposedly liberal is — well — simply retarded.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Government

    If you go this link and study Churchill's title, you will embarrass yourself enough to see that Churchill merely another WWII hero that is a progressive — a long line of them if I may add at!!!

    bla hahahahahahahaha

    stupid idiots

    blahahahahahaha

  • AlFranken1

    I'm willing to ignore your last paragraph if you are willing to indulge in Mr. Churchill's progressive accomplishments:

    “The National Insurance Act 1911 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act is often regarded as one of the foundations of modern social welfare in the United Kingdom and forms part of the wider social welfare reforms of the Liberal Government of 1906-1914. The increasing influence of the Labour Party among the population had put the Liberals under pressure to enact social legislation.
    The Act was passed in two stages. The National Insurance Act Part I provided for a National Insurance scheme with provision of medical benefits and the National Insurance Act Part II provided for time-limited unemployment benefit . The scheme was to be based on actuarial principles and it was planned that it would be funded by a fixed amount each from workers, employers and the government. The scheme from Part II was restricted to particular industries and neither made any provision for dependants. By 1913 2.3 million were insured under the scheme for unemployment benefit and almost 15 million insured for sickness benefit.
    A key assumption of the Act was an unemployment rate of 4.6%. At the time the Act was passed unemployment was at 3% and the fund was expected to quickly build a surplus. Under the Act, employees contributions to the scheme were to be compulsory and taken by the employer before the workers salary was paid.
    Britain was not the first country to provide insured benefits; Germany had provided compulsory national insurance against sickness from 1884. Sections of the Conservative party opposed the Act considering that it was not for taxpayers to pay for such benefits. Some trade unions who operated their own insurance schemes and friendly societies were also opposed.
    The Act was important as it removed the need for unemployed workers, who were insured under the scheme, to rely on the stigmatised social welfare provisions of the Poor Law. This led to the end of the primacy of the Poor Law as a social welfare provider, resulting in the Poor Law finally being abolished in 1926.
    A key figure in the implementation of the Act was Robert Laurie Morant.”

    That was all Winton's doing as a member of the Liberal Party.

  • CPTDave

    Fighting while handicapped. Leaving our forces vulnerable to ambush. Leaving them without immediate air support.
    This President and General are directly responsible for our latest casualties.
    More so this General and his Commanders.
    Supply our forces what they need or stop this war.

  • MaryAnn

    Why blame the General? It's his Commander in Chief who supplies our soldiers with what they need to win, and McChrystal has asked for more support.

  • CPTDave

    if you send your child down a freeway at night on a bike with no reflective gear and he was rundown,, who's fault would it be? Your husbands for not supplying the reflective gear? or yours for sending him knowing he most likely would not make it without the support gear… you both are responsible and you more so for sending him.

  • USMCSniper

    And while you are at it change these rules of engagement that values the lives of Afghan civilians used as human shields above those of our own Soldiers and Marines. The new rules of engagement imposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal (at the direction of the DoD Obama Administration), the senior American commander in Afghanistan are dangerous and downright stupid. They limit the use of airstrikes and require all troops to break off combat with the Taliban and al Qaeda when civilians are present, even if it means letting the enemy escape. They also call for greater cooperation with the Afghan National Army.

    Under those rules, Marines and soldiers are being denied artillery and air support for fear of killing civilians and are restricted to samll arms firefights, and the Taliban is obviously using that to its tactical advantage. Just think of the insanity of the current situation and the suicidal position this administration has placed these warriors in. So, we're supposed to defend the population, but we can't defend them because we can't engage the enemy fully.

    The military says the new rules, while riskier in the short run, will ultimately mean fewer casualties. Ohhh….. errrrr…. is that why we had 60 casualties since last month and had a firebase almost overrun.

    I would hire Obama as the assistant dishwasher on the third shift in a greasy soul food joint in the baddest part of town let alone have this panty waisted silver tongue as the commander in chief.