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America’s Fighting Days Are Over, But What of Our Fighting Spirit?


Our commander-in-chief made a wise decision today, declaring a withdrawal of American troops from daily combat by this spring. A few years ago, he had pledged to defeat the Taliban. But that could not be accomplished because the Pashtun tribes did not reject the Pashtun-based Taliban, the Afghan government proved feckless, and Pakistan offered the insurgents a 1,500-mile sanctuary. Shifting daily combat to the Afghan forces from our troops this spring was the right strategic call. As important, the president showed that he had the welfare of our grunts at heart. The reward for another year of patrolling did not match the risk of the additional casualties. America’s fighting days with conventional (as distinct from Special Operations) forces are over (until the next crisis). 

I am opposed to Mr. Hagel’s nomination because he does not demonstrate that he will fight, as would Mr. Panetta, to prevent serious financial damage to our military. He does not exhibit the confidence in America to be the steward of our military in international crises. Similarly, President Obama has backed away from a global leadership role. With his administration observing from behind, the Arab Spring resulted in the ascendancy of Islamist forces that rejected the ends as well as the means of Western liberalism. Some pundits project a “G-Zero world” –  the end of American global leadership via councils like the G-7, resulting in a world splintered into regional pacts that shift with each issue. I am concerned about our fighting spirit and our belief in our own values. 

But on the merits of the situation in the countryside, it’s not right for our warriors to suffer more casualties when our plan is simply to leave.

— Bing West is author of The Wrong War and Into the Fire.


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