Is Obama’s Afghanistan strategy too little too late?
I’m not sure if Obama’s charisma can take him any farther than a cool photo op at the US Military Academy in West Point but as we all know, the cadets are being groomed to assume roles of leadership perhaps very soon, and they must portray that atmosphere of trust and respect for the office of the president. It’s just military protocol that they will be made available for Mr. Obama’s impactful announcement however I am aware that many in the crowd are supporters and hope that whatever he chooses to do will be of greatest benefit to the United States. Perhaps many are already wondering the motivation for delaying his decision on sending or withholding a troop surge in Afghanistan and if that delay will result in a protracted war, already going strong in its eight year, and if the US will be able to defeat our enemies. I wonder how the background of the military academy can help him deliver a riveting speech that will inspire the American people to follow his leadership. One thing is to be stately and inspire a nation to support a war; another is to actually have the courage to carry it out.
It’s not that making a decision at the same time General Stanley McChrystal’s official request for troops in excess of 68,000 could have been beneficial right away. Nothing happens quickly in a war; it seems that a president can just snap his fingers and recall troops from the field any time and wham, our troops are on their way home. A total pullout can take between two and five years, depending on many variables; is this still a shooting war? Another consideration is who stays behind to maintain security while the other units move out, equipment naturally has to be moved, when you move troops around you have to find places for them to eat and sleep and process out. This isn’t like buying a ticket to Europe for two weeks; you pack your bags and go. It is not the same thing and it would be unreasonable for the folks from Moveon.org to demand that their ‘president’ stop the war, close down the holding facility at Guantanamo (without considering constitutional and other political fallout and it is still not closed) and implement universal healthcare right away. What about the war on terror? Mr. Obama refuses to call it that these days, so what is it, a police action? Ummmm…
I read in the news, I think it was Carl Levin, who claimed that Mr. Obama was entitled time to examine all of his options regarding Afghanistan. That is true, I agree with his statement but there is one small problem with that; while Mr. Bush had several months to study and confer with his war council on a strategy to deal swiftly with the 9/11 attacks and mitigate potential future attacks on our nation, Mr. Obama is not facing the same issues.
First, the war has been ongoing and Mr. Obama is expected to pick up where Mr. Bush left off, he’s not being called on to establish a new war strategy, just to as he says, ‘finish’ the job. Second, Mr. Bush was faced with an attack on American soil and though the decision to invade Iraq came about months later, he had a clear objective. Third, conversely, Mr. Obama was tasked with determining how to improve our chances of winning over the dreaded Taliban in another warfront and keeping that threat from spreading to our shores. Mr. Obama has some of the finest minds available to help him reach these decisions. Though each and every problem Mr. Obama faces, he must bear in mind that they are related but each most be handled separately. Delaying his decision until after the Thanksgiving Day holiday while many of our forces face oblivion in foreign lands sends the wrong signal to the country, our troops, our allies – the few we have left – and our enemies. To consider this delay a form of pragmatism is truly dangerous. Holding off until a consensus is reached for a time is fine but the recommendation from the general came with alternate strategies and outcomes and the time for action has come and gone. If he goes for a troop surge on Tuesday, either way the execution of that order will take about as much time as it will take Congress to implement national healthcare or fuss over the Olympic Games or global climate treaties. His attention shifted to things unimportant and this is where we are stuck now.
Nothing happens overnight and though a military surge will be a much welcome development that will not advance the agenda right away. Much time has already been wasted.
In the case of national healthcare we can do just fine without it for now or the next year but the war goes on and a decision must be made as to what direction it will take. Neville Chamberlain will always cause historians to fight over whether his appeasement policy worked against British national interests by allowing Germany’s advance on Czechoslovakia because he believed in engaging bullies in dialogue. Anyone who watches the news or has served in Iraq and Afghanistan can clarify this fantasy for Mr. Obama. The people we’re fighting have no ethic or abide by the rules of war. They are not professional armies, carry a flag or pledge allegiance to a unified nation. Their purpose is to terrorize and cause all the damage possible to our way of life and make us give up. That is what allows them to fight to the last man standing and without regard to innocent bystanders. Their objective is clear. I hope Mr. Obama renounces this approach and jumps right into the fight because his future is just as threatened as that of America. He must find his objective quickly and allow the fight to resume. He said he wanted to ‘talk’ and talk isn’t the answer. Actions speak louder than words. It’s time to act.
I’d like to believe that in spite of not liking his policies that whatever is done will receive support from Americans in one way or another, because our very existence is at stake. That is the kind of ‘victory’ he said he is afraid to be comfortable with but unfortunately it is the very kind of victory that will ensure our survival. I can only hope his effort is not too little too late.
So which is it going to be sir?