It’s easy to nod in approval to Will’s complaints, but his prescription is less compelling, as detailed in The Corner.
I would just add something on Will’s point that “Americans are increasingly impatient about ‘deteriorating’ (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions.” The long-term security of the United States requires achieving goals that probably exceed the public’s patience and attention span. The gripes about nation-building are palpable. But if we don’t try to establish a stable government that will prevent terrorists from working out of their country, it probably won’t happen by itself.
Terror training camps don’t require a ton of infrastructure. We see that standard B-roll footage of al-Qaeda training on that jungle gym over and over again, but it’s not like al-Qaeda really needs that many operatives who can jump over ditches or scale walls. They need jihadists willing to build bombs and guys willing to wear suicide vests and walk up to targets. They can do that almost anywhere, indoors and away from the view of satellites and drones, in the biggest city or most remote village.
If all we needed to prevent those attacks was, as Will recommends, “intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units,” the world would be a nicer and simpler place. But if I’m hunting for a really difficult target, I’d prefer to have many, many resources at my disposal than Will’s abbreviated list.
Also note that a U.S. withdrawal could — would? — probably trigger a return of the Taliban to power, at least in certain regions. Could there be a clearer defeat in the War on Terror? (Version for Obama supporters: Could there be a clearer defeat in our Overseas Contingency Operations?) It would be like Hitler and his followers popping up and reestablishing regional control of Bavaria in 1949.