When Obama first talked about massively escalating the war in Afghanistan not all political observers were convinced it was a great idea. Some felt that a disinterested Commander in Chief leading us to war in a poorly educated nation dominated by the heroin trade and warlords strait out of the Middle Ages was asking for trouble. Under the Bush administration the conflict had been wisely contained to about 30,000 soldiers, a small military footprint that was more than sufficient to keep us safe from the terrorists. It was also cost effective in lives and treasure and made much more sense that massively escalating a war for Afghan hearts and minds that we were never likely to win.
But Obama had made Afghanistan a major campaign issue, reminding the public again and again that this was where the “good” conflict was as opposed to the “bad” one in Iraq. Even before taking office he had committed our nation to seeing the Afghanistan war through to the bitter end. From the beginning Obama never took the conflict seriously, preferring instead to treat hostilities as a political negotiation rather than a life and death struggle for victory. The military asked for 45,000 additional American troops, he gave them only 30,000. He was told that at least 400,000 Afghan soldiers would have to be trained in order to form a functional Afghani government, Obama agreed to only 230,000. Worst of all while he was putting the Afghan “surge” in place, Obama couldn’t help but pander to the anti-war left by announcing troop withdrawals would begin in 2011. This led John McCain to point out, “I’m all for dates of withdrawal, but that’s after the strategy succeeds, not before.”
Once again Obama put his own political ambitions over our national security. Letting your enemy know that your commitment is not absolute is no way to win a war. Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad stated the obvious in July 2010, “If you over-emphasize a deadline that is not realistic, you are making the enemy a lot more bold… You are prolonging the war.”
On more than one occasion Obama has tried to evade personal responsibility for the conflict that he was solely responsible for escalating. The war he once described as a “necessity” was soon downgraded to vagaries of the universe due to setbacks on the battlefield. In 2010 Obama said, “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a Private, or General or a President.” By 2011 the administration was back to blaming Bush when White House spokesman Jay Carey accused the former President of pursuing a “neglected” and “unclear” Afghanistan policy as opposed to the “clear eyed” Obama approach.
Whether or not we will ultimately be successful in transforming Afghanistan into a functional democracy capable of living peacefully with its neighbors is uncertain. As they say, miracles do happen, but there are few who now disagree that massively escalating the war in Afghanistan isn’t working out as expected. With Islamists on the march and attacks on U.S. soldiers on the rise, the chances for a repeat of a Vietnam type debacle is looking more and more likely with each passing day.