On May 22, President Barack Obama addressed the graduating class of United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. He drew cheers when he proclaimed, ” As long as I am your commander-in-chief, I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done.”
Bravo. But I wish he had applied those sentiments to the United States invasion of Afghanistan. The President has dramatically increased the number of U. S. military forces there, has promised even more next year, and has warned of a multi-year commitment to a war already almost 8 years in duration.
• Is this war “absolutely necessary?”
• Do we have a “strategy” for fighting it?
• Do we have “well defined” goals?
• Do we have an exit strategy?
As recently as May 10, Hamad Karzai, the elected head the Afghan government, said, “Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan.” When this was relayed to General David Petraeus, the American and NATO military Commander, he replied,” I would agree with that.” Obama’s National Security Advisor Jim Jones said,” I am not sure if Osama bin Laden is alive or dead.” Prime Minister of Pakistan Zardari:, stated flatly,” Osama is dead.” On May 17, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Katie Couric of CBS that it will take at least two to four years before Afghan forces begin to take the lead in fighting, leaving unsaid when U.S. troops will leave.
Moreover, Karzai and Zardari have complained bitterly about U.S. military tactics, especially the use of air power resulting in the unnecessary killing of civilians and the consequent increase in anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What is victory in Afghanistan? Will it prevent another brutal tragedy like September 11? We should remember that this attack was made by 19 people, not one of them Afghans, armed with credit cards and box cutters. It is difficult to understand how the conquest of Afghanistan could prevent another group of nineteen from performing a similar criminal act. Defense of the U.S. mainland begins at home with effective police and immigration procedures.
U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, even Pakistan, coupled with our all-out support for Israel, might motivate some Muslims and citizens of those countries to irrational revenge, what the CIA calls “Blowback”, the unintended consequences of military action and especially of foreign military occupation.
President Obama, give us the answers to our questions. If you don’t have them, at least separate yourself from the Afghan policies of George W. Bush and give us an exit strategy so that we can help these nations change their policies through diplomacy, economic help and our soft power while saving American lives and resources.
This blog post originally appeared on The Relentless Liberal on May 23, 2009.