Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Afghanistan: War without Honor

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/16/09

When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham asked Admiral Michael Mullen yesterday to assure the 55% of Americans who no longer think we know what we are doing in Afghanistan that the new troops he wants will do the job; will win the war, he nodded yes. As expected.

What I would like to have heard next was this: Do you assure us then that as a man of honor you will resign your commission and leave the republic in disgrace if you fail?

But this is fantasy football. The problem with broad-based governance and its vast, globalist appeals is that it is not based in real people and places but is a democracy of feelings and abstractions. It is like economy detached from gold – it has no talisman to indicate and sustain truth. In this realm of the televised everyday with its primal pounding of the radio everywhere, getting stoned is the modest substitute for enlightenment and disgrace and failure – whether it is an American President’s dithering while one million fall to the knife in Rwanda or a trophy grabbed on award night from Taylor Swift - can be easily accommodated by a simply apology on Leno. With Eisenhower, Sherman and Lee it was different and we may never find this character again in ourselves. And one day we may need it.

Commentator Haviland Smith, a former CIA chief who writes a column for the Barre Times and the Rutland Herald in Vermont, has a more likely appraisal than the Graham/Mullen sweet talk. The President’s strategy may be based on rhetoric, he says:

Why does President Obama believe it is necessary to "win" in Afghanistan? Of course, this question begs the issue of what "winning" means and whether it is even remotely possible. Certainly, historically, it rarely, if ever, has been . . .

Barack Obama of 2008 had literally no military experience or background and thus little credibility with either the military or its American supporters. If he wanted to have any credibility with the right and with pro-military congressmen, he may have felt that he had to balance his negativity on Iraq with a pro-military stance on Afghanistan . . .

As president-elect Obama, he has found himself in a completely different situation. None of his old political associates had much experience with military matters. President Obama has . . . completely revamped his military team with Generals Petraeus and McCrystal as his go-to leaders on Afghanistan . . .

It's a fair guess that two highly ambitious, educated, articulate, relatively young generals would be disinclined to admit that they could not meet the military needs of the administration – "winning" in Afghanistan. Clearly, they have said that the job can be done, albeit with much involvement on the civil side, yet they have no example of its ever having been accomplished!