Still there, &c.

On patrol in Zabul province, Afghanistan, June 14, 2011 (DOD/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson, USAF)


The headline read, “Taliban attack trends: Never mind.” The article explained, “The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan will no longer count and publish the number of Taliban attacks, a statistical measure that it once touted as a gauge of U.S. and allied success but now dismisses as flawed.”

I found myself thinking the following: “I’ve checked out on Afghanistan, mentally. That’s what was said of the president of the United States, years ago. But he is the commander-in-chief. How can he check out? Besides which, how can any of us check out when our countrymen are fighting and dying there?”

I talked about this with Tom Cotton, when he was campaigning for Congress last autumn. He made a comment that has stuck with me: “It’s little wonder the country is war-weary when the president seems weariest of all.”

Cotton was elected in November. He is a freshman congressman, representing Arkansas’s Fourth District. He is also a veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

I talked to him in January as well, at a National Review Institute conference in Washington. (For a video of this conversation, go here.) Cotton reminded me, and everyone else present, that we have people in the field, and we need to back them to the hilt. The war may be yesterday’s news in many minds; but it is present reality, and life and death, for others.

This may seem terribly arrogant — and I know it is — but I figure that, if someone like me needs reminding, people in general need reminding too.

(I warned you.)

General James Mattis, who leads the Central Command, has given testimony to the Senate. As we learn from this article, he told senators “he had envisioned keeping about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after combat operations end in 2014, far more than the number the Obama administration and NATO are considering.”

I have a feeling Mattis’s course is far the more prudent. If you’ve spent years of sacrifice in a place, why risk letting it all go to pot? Why risk rendering the sacrifice for nought? Of course, there must be some risk — but you do all you can to minimize it, I would think.

He appears to be a straight-shooter, Mattis. This report begins, “The Obama administration program of sanctions and diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities is not working, [Mattis] told a Senate committee . . .” Yeah, no kidding. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) is another one who understands. She is quoted as saying, “I fear that if they [the Iranians] continue to use negotiations to delay . . . we will be at a point where they have nuclear-weapons capability, and then it’s too late.”

Exactly so.

You have to laugh at this headline, in a gallows sort of way: “World powers moderate on Iran at nuke meeting.” (Article here.) Yeah, because the world powers have been so tough on Iran. Extreme, even!

According to the U.N., there are now a million refugees from Syria — half are children. A full 70,000 people have been killed. (For a news article, go here.) As I keep saying, Syria is not that populous a country — 20 million. And declining, all the time . . .

It is the No. 1 question in the Arab-Israeli conflict, I believe — maybe even the only question: Will the Arabs co-exist with Israel or not? Will they live side by side or not? As this story tells us, a senior British diplomat was prevented from speaking at Bir Zeit University on the West Bank. He was attacked by a mob, though uninjured.

The article says the following, of the “activists”: “They said their chief grievance was Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in what was then British-ruled Palestine in a letter known as the ‘Balfour Declaration,’ issued in 1917.” Uh-huh. One of the “student leaders” said, “We asked the university to cancel his visit because Britain is the cause of the Palestinian tragedy.”

Actually, the Palestinians are the cause of the Palestinian tragedy.

They could have had half of that British-ruled land in 1947. They refused, opting to make war against the Jews. At almost any time in the last 65 years, they could have had a state.

Do they want one, co-existing with Israel? Or do they need the whole enchilada? That is the question, and all others are, by comparison, small.