Advancing a Free Society

Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan: The War That Is His and Isn’t

Friday, June 24, 2011

President Obama is on the horns of a dilemma: Afghanistan was, by his reckoning, the good war of necessity, whereas Iraq was the bad war of choice. But he never took to that good war, and his drawdown of the surge troops that he had committed to Afghanistan in December of 2009 is the deed of a reluctant war leader. The surge troops are to be back home by the end of the summer of 2012—just in the nick of time for his re-election campaign. If this be war, this is war by the electoral calendar. No soaring poetry attends this burden in Afghanistan. We are to wrap it up and focus on “nation-building” at home.

Grant George W. Bush his due: He defended his Iraq war through thick and thin. He ordered his own surge of troops after the “thumping” his party received in the congressional elections of 2006. He was certain that the war was about big things—the freedom of the Arabs, the implanting on Arab soil of a democratic example. High opinion ridiculed his quest, his own party was not into it, but he saw it through. For better or worse, Barack Obama lacks this kind of conviction. The Afghan war is his and isn’t. Defeat is to be avoided but there is no talk of victory. There is an inescapable conclusion that Mr. Obama brings to this war the attitude that Lyndon Johnson had for Vietnam—a bitch of a war, LBJ famously said of that terrible burden.

Continue reading Fouad Ajami in The New Republic

(photo credit: White House photo by Chuck Kennedy)