One frequently reads and hears that Afghanistan has become “Obama’s war.” The implication by many who use that phrase is that if things go badly in Afghanistan, President Obama will be blamed and it will cause him political damage. But if things go well, who will get the credit? It won’t be George W. Bush, of that you can be sure.
Is it fair to call Afghanistan, “Obama’s war?” I think not. Whenever American soldiers are at war, it is in the interest of all Americans, whatever their political beliefs, to back the president until the objectives of victory and stability are achieved and the troops are able to come home.
Anyone who hopes Obama will suffer defeat is guilty of un-Americanism, even anti-Americanism. There is nothing patriotic about wishing military defeat in order to win the next election. If American policy prevails in Afghanistan, it will not be a victory of party or of presidents, this one or the one before. It will be a victory for liberty — for the Afghan people and for America.
With the presidential campaign long over, President Obama sounded like his predecessor last Friday, as he outlined his reasoning for continued prosecution of this war: “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al-Qaida and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries. ... The road ahead will be long. There will be difficult days ahead.”
The president has said that among his objectives is to locate “moderate” members of the Taliban. Moderate members of the Taliban? He’d have better luck finding pork chops on the menu at a kosher restaurant. If there are any moderate Taliban members, I suspect that once they are exposed they will not enjoy long and happy lives.
Some of the president’s other objectives seem more realistic. In addition to sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces, the president said he also wants to dispatch “agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That’s how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs.”
He wants support from the United Nations, international aid organizations and America’s partners and allies. One would hope that these partners and allies who expressed joy over Obama’s election will now follow through and give him the help he asks for, because defeating the Taliban is also in their best interests. Conservatives are more likely to support President Obama on Afghanistan than liberals supported President Bush on Iraq, as long as victory over the Taliban remains his objective. And if the effort is successful, the credit should be shared with President Bush, just as equal credit is due to Democratic and Republicans presidents who fought the Cold War.
But even if the Taliban is defeated in Afghanistan, that defeat will not end their fanatical threats against Israel, America and Western Europe (which is why we’re all in this battle together). The Taliban’s hatred of Israel and the West is like an infection that is resistant to treatment. Just when you think you’ve neutralized it, it pops up again. Radical Islam in all its forms — whether it is named Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, or one of a dozen other monikers — has no intention of signing a surrender document with the West. That is because Islamic terrorists believe they get their instructions directly from Allah. Most would rather die than surrender or make peace with infidels.
President Obama, like President Bush before him, should hasten that objective. If President Obama continues on this path, he should have the full support of the American people. All of them.
— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.