Morgen on November 18, 2009 at 3:07 pm
What’s an enlightened Commander-in-Chief to do when presiding over a conflict we are widely perceived to be losing? Signal to the enemy that we have a fixed time-line for withdrawal, of course:
In an interview with CNN, Obama said he would soon announce the results of a long-awaited review, which would include an exit strategy to avoid “a multi-year occupation that won’t serve the interests of the United States”.
“The American people will have a lot of clarity about what we’re doing, how we’re going to succeed, how much this thing is going to cost, what kind of burden does this place on our young men and women in uniform and, most importantly, what’s the end game on this thing,” he said.
“My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president. One of the things I’d like is the next president to be able to come in and say I’ve got a clean slate.”
Of course don’t expect the actual announcement to arrive until after the passage of the health reform bill, or until it clears the Senate at least. When it does arrive, no doubt the new and improved strategy will include a greater emphasis on building up the Afghan security forces, and generally shifting more of the burden onto them. All couched as the “path to victory” of course. The only question is whether this “victory” will be foreordained by 2012 or 2016.
The President is also signaling that he intends to approve a significant increase in troops. All this talk about an exit strategy is really directed to the President’s liberal base, and even more so to the increasing number of independent voters who are opposed to an ongoing commitment in Afghanistan. It’s a politically motivated attempt to stem the ongoing fall in his approval rating, and that of his party, leading into the mid-term elections next year.
Here’s the problem: the enemy is paying attention too. And given that their strategy consists chiefly of waiting us out, it seems more than a little unwise to signal our intentions to leave within a defined window of time. Just ask our friend Anwar Al-Awlaki. He was speaking about Iraq, but his words readily apply here as well:
The US has come to the conclusion that they cannot do the job alone and they must seek the assistance of the munafiqeen (hypocrites.) With all of the outside and inside forces combining efforts to fight the carriers of the truth in Iraq our brothers do not need to win in order to be victorious. All what they need to do is hang on. If they succeed in that they are winning. The invader cannot stay there forever. Allah know best but it seems that outside circumstances around the world may ultimately come to their relief.
If you are feeling a sense of dÃ©ja vu over this issue, it’s because the central disagreement between the Bush Administration and liberals in Congress over Iraq was whether there should be a fixed timetable for withdrawal. In spite of the success of the surge, the Democrats essentially won the battle for public opinion over this with the congressional elections in 2006. And no doubt the public will be largely supportive of a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan as well.
But if a lasting victory over Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists is the goal, then a fixed timetable for withdrawal is tantamount to surrender. At least it will be as far as our enemies are concerned. And given the unique and global nature of this conflict, winning the PR battle is just as important as succeeding in our military engagements.
The security of our nation is not a “game”, and if we leave Afghanistan (and Iraq) before the job is done the only “clean slate” will be in the imaginations of those who desire to go back to a pre-9/11 mentality. The tragedy at Fort Hood – the first terrorist attack on our shores since 9/11 – should serve as a reminder to us all of the seriousness of this threat.