(Centennial Fellow) In my article on “Afghanistan: The Untold Story” back in May, I noted President Obama’s oft-stated assertion that Afghanistan was the “right war”, the one we “had to win” and commended his decision to send an additional 17,000 troops. I concluded optimistically saying that “In continuing along this necessary road of many difficult steps he deserves our strongest support”.
In October with General McChrystal’s call for 40,000 troops still stuck in the White House “In-Box”, public sniping at the general, the eruption of the Democrat’s left wing, the emergence of the “Biden Alternative”, endless meetings, spreading confusion, and “dithering” to the nth power, I perceived a Viet Nam obsessed Democratic Party consumed by fear that once again an unpopular foreign war would doom their precious domestic agenda. Accordingly I wrote (“Escaping Afghanistan: Democrats Hunt for Excuses”) that “Obama –true to form- will try to have it both way, splitting the difference between his military and political advisors” and thereby- like Lyndon Johnson before him – “ spawn a series of self-defeating half measures that will bring disaster upon himself, his party, and his country”.
Last week at West Point the President began that baleful journey of contradictions.
Telling us that the 30,000 troops he was sending who wouldn’t be fully deployed for six months would start leaving twelve months after that was literally unbelievable and made a mockery of his assertion that the stakes in Afghanistan were of worldwide importance. The near universal incredulity that greeted these remarks led to the subsequent parade of “clarifiers” –Gates, Clinton, McCrystal, Eikenberry etc- whose message was effectively “Obama didn’t mean what he said”.
All of this created suspicion, uncertainty, and confusion in Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. To our enemies it is yet further evidence that with a little patience, and pressure this guy Obama can be had without serious risk to themselves.
What is clear is that the Democratic Party badly-very badly- wants to be out of Afghanistan ASAP but doesn’t know how to say it or do it without committing political suicide. Therefore they say and do things they don’t believe in, and hope their bad faith will go unnoticed.
In the inner councils that led to all of this Obama’s heart was with his little known but long trusted political advisors Axlerod and Emanuel but his head told him he dare not face down his well known but little trusted senior Cabinet members Gates and Clinton who vigorously supported the analysis and requests of Patraeus and McChrystal. Reliable reportage portrays Obama as frustrated, unhappy with all presented options, furious over pressure building “leaks”, and feeling very trapped. This goes far to explain the repeatedly postponed decision masquerading as “due diligence”.
At the heart of all this confusion are two blatantly absurd and arrogant policy conceptions:
1. Afghanistan is a deeply flawed and corrupt democracy unworthy of continued American support.
While rampant government corruption and dicey elections are the exception in the U.S.A., they are the rule throughout most of Africa and Asia. American troops are in Afghanistan for the same reason they turned up in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and other places – not to promote democracy or nation building, but rather to defend America’s vital national interests. Throughout our history we have been quite properly willing to associate with some pretty unsavory characters (e.g. Joe Stalin) whenever doing so advanced those interests.
2. If the Afghans and the Pakistanis don’t “step up” and more vigorously attack the enemy they are unworthy of continued American support.
These two countries have had far more of their soldiers and policemen killed than has the U.S., not to mention the thousands of their civilians who have been blown up. Whatever their political, religious, and historical imperfections it is repulsive to suggest that these people have no “skin in the game”. Every one of their officials who publicly associates with Americans knows he has an excellent chance of having his head cut off soon after the U.S. heads for the exits. That’s commitment.
The United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are in partnership because it is in their current national interest. Throughout History this is the stuff of which alliances are made. This is called reality. Unfortunately the present American regime is devoted to agendas quite apart from this reality. This disconnect poses the gravest danger to our national security.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore sun, Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Post.