The Corner

Obama’s Non-Wars

I have not read Obama’s Wars. I am not a fan of Bob Woodward’s methodology of using almost exclusively unnamed sources, which, on one hand, encourages concerned players to be preemptive and get their one-sided stories out as “background” or face slander from others who beat them to the punch, and on the other hand, reports thoughts and unspoken impressions in the manner of a novelist. 

That said, the initial reports from the book reveal two very disturbing presidential admissions that, if true, Robert Gibbs should quickly address: Obama’s purported toss-off that the U.S. could absorb another 9/11-like terrorist attack (a very callous and cruel editorial about the 3,000 who were so savagely killed and are no longer with us), and his studied avoidance of any notion of “victory” (as in, How quaint) in Afghanistan.

If these are accurate admissions, then we all better pray for salvation, because we won’t find it from the White House. The entire post-9/11 national-security doctrine was to be offensively minded, and to fight terror abroad rather than merely react to it serially at home. Afghanistan may be messy, confused, and non-traditional, but “victory” is no construct; it is a timeless military reality of making an enemy concede through force and diplomacy to your political objectives — in this case, a stable consensual government in Kabul, and the Taliban and its terrorist allies denied the use of Afghan soil to launch further attacks on Western interests. If Obama does not believe such a victory is possible, then he should not ask American youth to die in the next year as he finds a politically expedient method to back out of the theater.

When all this is collated with the arbitrary withdrawal dates, the McChrystal mess, the confusions and flip-flopping on everything from Guantanamo to the KSM trial, the plethora of regional czars at the expense of the secretary of state’s traditional portfolio, the weird remarks like “allegedly” after the Mutallab attempt, the deliberate distortions of the issues involved in the Ground Zero mosque, the Cairo speech myth-making, the initial al-Arabiya review, the silence after the Iranian protests last years, and much more — then we, our allies, and our enemies all get the impression that Obama is uninterested in national-security issues, resents the position that he is put in by a war against terror and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and seems to think that at some abstract level past American culpability has provoked radical Islamists to lash out, requiring us to absorb rather than preempt their blows. This trumps even Carterism and is a prescription for national suicide.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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