I have largely supported Obama’s decision for a troop surge in Afghanistan, as my previous posts have shown. That said, there is one area where Obama continues to let the nation down.
The notion of victory.
Obama does not believe in military victories. He questioned if there was such a thing in Iraq. He has even questioned if Truman was correct in using atomic weapons on Japan for victory in World War II. For some reason, he seems unable to accept the concept.
Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times noted the conspicuous lack of the term as well:
President Obama spoke 4,582 words in his primetime Afghanistan war speech at West Point last night.
He said “al Qaeda” 22 times.
He mentioned the “Taliban” 12 times.
And here’s how many times the Democratic chief executive used the word “victory” — 0.
That telling omission says more than anything about Obama’s 322d day in office when he gave his first major address as the United States’ commander-in-chief.
That is troubling.
Does Obama really want victory? Does he believe in such a thing? Former White House communications strategist David Gergen puts it succinctly, “The cavalry is coming. But not for long.” That is not a strategy for winning; it is a strategy for not losing.
And when we talk about not losing, I mean not only on the battlefield. Obama’s speech writers did their best to craft an address that would minimize political damage on all fronts, without pleasing anyone. Conservatives (myself included) are happy that Obama is taking Afghanistan seriously, though we wish he would have made this decision faster, and with more forces. Liberals see very little to like about this, other than the hope that Obama’s promise of exiting Afghanistan by 2011 will be kept.
Liberals make fun of the word victory. A party whose leaders proclaimed Iraq ‘lost’ can ill afford to accept the concept that someone other than themselves could lead the country to victory. The concept is alien to them.
So what is victory in Afghanistan? I think people complicate the matter. Victory in Afghanistan is a simple definition: establishing a government in Afghanistan that can maintain enough semblance of control that it will prevent the country from returning to its status as a terror state, thus minimizing its clear and present danger to the United States and the rest of the world.
That is it. Iraq was similar. Liberals don’t like this definition, but that was always what these wars were about. One can argue about the ‘worth’ of Iraq; one cannot argue that Afghanistan is ‘worthwhile’ and still maintain any credibility politically.
None of these countries are going to be beacons of democracy any time soon. But so what? That was never our goal. John Kerry asked how we would turn Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy. That was not the point. In fact, can you name a country other than ours that is a Jeffersonian democracy? No one in Europe or Asia is; they are based on parliamentary systems.
The joke of it all is that what appears at first a complex question is quite simple. Victory is defined as making our country safer. That is what our military is all about. If we can help civilians establish some semblance of civilization along the way, all the better for everyone involved. But our goal is simple.
And that is where Obama worries me the most. He has made compromise after compromise to placate his political allies and foes. But wars are not won by compromise. They are won by pure, cold blooded determination in pursuit of victory. Anything short of that makes a war effort not worth fighting. And my worry is, if you don’t know what victory means, how do you know what you are fighting for?