In “What Is Victory? If defeating the Taliban is not our goal, what is?” at National Review today, Andrew C. McCarthy talks sense — where there is apparently none in the Obama Administration.
Rarely has there been such a dramatic disconnect between rhetoric and reality. On Afghanistan, the national-security Right talks about “victory,” concerned Democrats talk about “success,” and Obama allies such as Sen. John Kerry talk about the “fulfillment of our mission.” They aren’t talking about the same thing. The somnolent press is content to court, rather than clarify, this confusion, but that’s no reason for the rest of us to go along for the ride.
What is “victory” or “success”? What is this “mission” of ours that must be fulfilled?
Staunch supporters of our military are seething as President Obama dithers over Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for an additional 40,000 troops. Their frustration would be justifiable if the main issue were Obama’s inconstancy. Months ago, the president endorsed the counterinsurgency strategy of McChrystal, his hand-picked commander. Now, he is balking. In what has become a habit for Obama, he changes the rationale for his temporizing almost daily: from the need to study further a situation he had purportedly studied plenty before backing McChrystal; to the notion that a counterterrorism strategy, rather than counterinsurgency, may be the way to go; to the latest excuse, floated this weekend by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, that the uncertainty hovering over Afghanistan’s fraud-ridden election makes a deployment decision premature.
Whatever the explanation on offer, the conservative reaction is always the same: “Isn’t this the war Obama said we had to win?” Nothing has changed, the national-security Right reasons: The Taliban are still our enemies; if they take over Afghanistan they will give safe haven to al-Qaeda, and we will be in grave danger of another 9/11. So why won’t Obama just give McChrystal what he needs to defeat the Taliban? […]
So why are we pretending that the mission in Afghanistan is something it is not? McChrystal is not trying to defeat the Taliban. Indeed, McChrystal tells Filkins it would be useless to attempt that. “You can kill Taliban forever,” he says, “because they are not a finite number.”
And here is the not-so-secret dirty little secret: Islamic militancy, whether in the form of the Taliban or its many other varieties, is “not finite.” That is because neither its source nor its center of gravity is confined to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, we have chosen not to address the source, which is Islamist ideology, and we have chosen to fight only in Afghanistan, as opposed to the many places where the enemy rolls new fighters off the assembly line. We have made these choices because we lack the will for a broader fight….