Obama’s “Good War” and Its Expiration Date

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The Rolling Stone article that took down Gen. Stanley McChrystal reported that the president “didn’t seem very engaged” during his early meetings with McChrystal. The general was frustrated by Obama’s slow-motion review and re-review of his administration’s own stated policy of an Afghan surge.

It pays to recall that the president entered office by firing McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, ostensibly to shake things up and goad the military into action in Afghanistan. But when McChrystal, following the president’s lead, asked for the resources necessary to win what the president called a “war of necessity”—including 40,000 additional troops—the president blinked and balked, ruminated and reviewed.

The president ultimately concluded that “it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan,” before promising that “after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

Now we know why the president dithered over McChrystal’s request. It simply wasn’t what he wanted.

“I want an exit strategy,” Woodward quotes him as saying. Note that the president isn’t talking here about Iraq—the war that, in his words, “distract[ed] us from Afghanistan and the real threat from al Qaeda.” He’s talking about Afghanistan, “the good war.”

As a candidate and as a commander-in-chief, the president has often employed this politically effective, if spurious, argument that Iraq was a war of choice that diverted attention and resources from a war of necessity in Afghanistan.

It was a politically effective argument because it allowed him to brandish a tough position on national security. But it was disingenuous because he is now and always has been uncomfortable with the application of U.S. power anywhere, as underscored by his demand for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, his embarrassingly drawn-out response to McChrystal’s request for more troops in 2009, his timetable for withdrawal, and his bizarre notion that it’s somehow in America’s “vital national interest” to fight for Afghanistan—but only until next July.

What this president apparently doesn’t understand is that vital national interests don’t have expiration dates, and letting the Taliban know when the U.S. military will end its offensive makes victory difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

But thanks to Woodward, we are learning that losing Afghanistan is apparently no more important than losing the Democratic Party.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.

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  • Ret. Marine

    I don't buy this excuse of losing the whole democrat party thing. I am left with the understanding that it is the whole country I worry of while this pretender squats at 1600 Penn. Ave. He may think he's the "won" they have been waiting for but, me personally I think he's the one who would rather rule than lead this great Nation to the next step of prosperity and well being. I swore an oath to protect and defend the CONSTITUTION against all enemies, foreign and domestic, no one has ever relieved me of this responsibility. This pretender squatting in our house has made a mockery of this Oath. Where are those impeachment papers

    • Kim Bruce

      I'm with you on that, Marine.
      Semper Fi!

    • Wesley69

      That oath applies to all our armed forces. Thank God for that.

  • USMCSniper

    Commander in Chief? I wouldn't hire Obama as the assistant janitor on the midnite shift in a greasy soul food joint in the worst part of South Chicago.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    There are many in the anti-Jihad, Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer, and Hugh Fitzgerald among them, who feel we SHOULD leave Afghanistan to its own devices, that it would be folly to continue squandering our precious blood and treasure trying in vain to civilize a Muslim hell-hole. It is a compelling argument.

    But one thing is certain, something that the proponents of withdrawal never acknowledge: Should we leave Afghanistan (and Iraq, for that matter) to its own devices before it's sufficiently stabilized, one set of extremists (the existing government) will be replaced by a more virulent set (in Afghan., the Taliban/Al Qaeda; in Iraq, Al Qaeda and/or Iran and its surrogate, the Mahdi Army of Muqtadar al Sadr), and this WILL have an impact on both regional and global geo-politics and America's national security.

    In short, perhaps in the final analysis walking away IS the sanest thing we can do – I'm not sure, but let's not pretend there WON'T be repercussions.

    • Jim C.

      We leave Afghanistan tonight, and we put a sign on the door that reads "YOU'RE WELCOME.

      P.S. Don't make us come back."

    • Wesley69

      We are either all in or we need to get out. Obama will do what is politically safe. Our brave troops are headed by a defeatest-in-chief.

  • USMCSniper

    Democrats turned their backs on South Vietnam, betrayed an ally and trashed America's word. Within a month ten fully armored divisions overran the out-of ammunition South Vietnamese forces, and Saigon fell. The entire world watched as American personnel desperately scrambled into helicopters from embassy rooftops in Saigon while beating back our own allies, to whom we could offer no means of escape. It was the most demeaning image of America ever witnessed. Southeast Asia was promptly consumed in a maelstrom of violence that seems to occur whenever these Democrats come to power. Communist totalitarians swept through Laos, Cambodia and all of Vietnam with genocide in the millions. Five years after that, Islamic lunatics in Iran felt no compunction about storming the embassy of what was once the greatest superpower on Earth and taking American citizens hostage for 14 months. To this day, al-Qaida boosts the flagging morale of its jihadists by reminding them of America's humiliating retreat from Vietnam.

    • Wesley69

      True!!! Then again, the jihadists have an advantage. They have a President, due to his incompetence and dereliction of duty that is helping them.

      I wonder what would have happened in Vietnam if Nixon never got involved in Watergate. Nixon, Ford's pardon – gave us Jimmy Peanut.

    • tagalog

      You're absolutely right. Part of the humiliation for Americans was watching our own people scramble to get on the helicopters. That was because our government thought that leaving our own people on the ground after declaring our combat mission over in 1973 was somehow a good thing for South Vietnam and for us. It wasn't and that could have been seen from 1973 onward. An Loc, though a victory for ARVN, was a bellwether event for those who could see.

      For 25 years after Vietnam, our government seemed to have learned the lessons of Vietnam. Now, with the actions being taken during these last 2 or 3 years, it's rapidly becoming obvious that those lessons were forgotten. The lessons? 1. Don't fight a war unless you intend to win it; 2. Don't send troops to a war without a clear mission; 3. Don't withdraw and expect your allies to win the war – they're only there because of you.

  • tagalog

    If the nation is going to put an end to combat operations in July of 2011, why send any more troops into harm's way? I'm in favor of the Afghanistan war, but why waste the lives and well-being of our troops for a war that we're going to call "over" whatever gains or losses might have been made? Just get out.

    General MacArthur said "In war, there is no substitute for victory." Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan are ample testimony to that axiom. Fight to win or don't fight at all.

  • PAthena

    President Obama is an ignoramus. Wars are not games with time limits. A war ends with victory, or defeat, or with a stalemate. Thank God no one of his stupidity was President of the United States during World War II.
    Read David Horowitz, Radical Son, about how the Communists organized the "anti-war" movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Alas, the McGovern rules for the Democratic Party in 1972 allowed the Party to be taken over by anti-American nitwits. It is no longer the Party of FDR and Harry Truman.

  • http://www.myspace.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    Obama is a beast he understands what all this means for people here, didn't the UN Walk out on Obama ? and Obama is not a fool or a Ignoramus he wants the USA To be put into a box and sent to Islam, right now England is in a Box and today all of the Racists Imam have called out the words Eng;and must become part of Islam now, its not a joke its going to happen here and soon.

  • Wesley69

    Obama used Afghanistan so he could attack Bush over Iraq. Now that he is president, the Dems have no stomach for any war including this "good” one. Obama is more concerned about his base then losing Afghanistan or demoralizing the military. Just like in Vietnam, LBJ put people in harms way, then the Dems pushed Nixon to pull out. What did those 58000+ Americans die for – Nothing. But they did their duty and died with honor, unlike the cowardly politicians that chose to save their political hides.

  • Wesley69

    Obama does not care about victory. He wants a withdrawal strategy. His timeline, he states is inflexible. The Afghan army will not be ready in a year and he knows it. As for Iraq, he won't talk about it. He would rather spend his thing jetting around the world apologizing for the US. People cursed Bush, but he did not desert his troops, nor did he apologize for America's "evil deeds.". He pursued victory. After 9/11, we were fortunate to have a President that went after the terrorists. The only reason, Bush did not take out the Iranian nuclear facilities was because the Democrat leadership warned against it. Thank you, Dems. By the way, has hope and change got Iran to stop pursuing the bomb? If we survive this administration, I believe history will show that Bush had more guts in his little finger, than Obama and the Defeatacrats claim to have.

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson’s Assistant