Politics & Policy

The Wars Are Not ‘Ended’

Leaving a war without victory isn’t “leaving.” It’s defeat.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama, on four occasions, mentioned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq coming to an end:

1. “And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.”

2. “When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.”

#ad#3. “And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

4. “As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life.”

At the end of his speech, when the president introduced Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who had been gravely wounded in Afghanistan, he said, “Like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.”

What Mr. Obama said is not true.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not ended. Only America’s involvement has ended (in Iraq) or is about to end (in Afghanistan).

And, unlike Sergeant Remsburg, America has quit.

As Peter Beinart, a man of the Left who believes that America should never have fought either war, wrote in The Atlantic: “When it comes to the war in which he [Remsburg] fought, quitting is exactly what the United States plans to do. Obama said as much earlier in his speech. In lauding America’s exits from Afghanistan and Iraq, he didn’t cite a single thing the United States has accomplished in either country. How could he have? Parts of central Iraq are today in the hands of jihadists, and the carnage there has never been worse. When the U.S. and its allies leave Afghanistan, one expert recently predicted, ‘the likely outcome is a civil war, much more fierce and widespread than the one fought during recent years.’”

The expert Beinart cites is a prominent Pakistani journalist and author, Zahid Hussain, who also predicted that this civil war in Afghanistan “will not be confined to Afghanistan but will also spill over into Pakistan.”

That Beinart thinks that we should never have fought the Taliban is what one expects of a man of the Left. When it comes to fighting evil, the Left is almost pacifist. Moreover, he and the Left generally are busier fighting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, American conservatives, and carbon emissions.

So let’s make two things clear about the president’s repeated claims about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

First, as noted, the Iraqi and Afghan wars have not “ended.” Only America’s involvement has “ended” or is ending. In Iraq, the war between violent Islamists and other Iraqis is intensifying; and in Afghanistan, the war between violent Islamists and other Afghanis will begin as soon as, or even before, American troops leave.

Second, when a country leaves a war before achieving victory, it is not called leaving. It is called defeat. The only goal of a war is victory. Even if you have been victorious on the battlefield — as we have been in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and as we were in Vietnam — if you leave before securing your ends, you will have lost the war. Had America left South Korea after having won the Korean War on the battlefield, there would still have been a war on the Korean peninsula — a war that South Korea would have ultimately lost. It would have thereby disappeared from the map. All of Korea would have become the concentration camp that North Korea is today.

If America is not prepared to stay indefinitely — and to stay does not necessarily mean to continue fighting — in a country in which it fights, it should never engage in that war.

Because when the decent leave, the indecent win.

Thanks to President Obama and the Democratic party, the decent will have left Iraq and Afghanistan.

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.


Dennis Prager — Dennis Prager’s latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.

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