Considering how the Left has harped on Vietnam for the past two generations I’m somewhat surprised that of all the lessons America learned from that conflict, one of the most crucial is being ignored by Obama and his administration: politicians suck at military strategy. Having a president and his secretary of defense pouring over battlefield maps and deciding what high value targets should be hit isn’t the way one fights a war, especially one as complex as a counterinsurgency. I had thought that even the most level-headed liberals would recognize that fact (in fairness to her, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to be one of the few in the administration that does understand) but the aggression of the administration towards General Stanley McChrystal’s recommendations makes it clear that the spirits of Bob McNamara and LBJ are alive and well in the White House.
As a former Delawarean I am quite familiar with the embarrassment of its native son Joe Biden. To say that Joe Biden’s ego is large is like saying the Grand Canyon is a big hole or that opera singer Andrea Bocelli can carry a tune. Biden has always fancied himself to be a bit of an arm-chair general. Now that he has the ear of the most powerful man in the world, one can be assured that he is going to put that imagined talent to use.
And so he has. General Biden has worked hard to convince the President that he should ignore the real generals like Gen. Stanley McChrystal and follow his advice. Joe Biden believes that we should give up on Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan instead.
While I suspect that Biden really believes that this is a good idea, his ego is clearly clouding his judgment. First by ignoring the advice of his own generals in Afghanistan, Obama risks losing the war outright. If he cannot trust the advice of his own generals and the chain of command that is supposed to craft that advice, how will the President get the information he needs to make the decisions he is constitutionally bound to make? While I am not a fan of the president, I am willing to support him if he stands behind our men and women in uniform and the millions of Afghanis they are working alongside to save that nation from the fate of Somalia.
Secondly, what are Biden’s credentials on military operations? I am a student of military history yet I do not claim to be qualified to override the intelligence of General McChrystal, whom Obama and Biden have both praised in the past – when it suited their agenda. Sure he has attended a lot of briefings as head of various intelligence and foreign policy committees in the Senate, but just because I avidly listen to the commentary of Howie Long or Terry Bradshaw on the Fox Pregame show does not qualify me to be a NFL quarterback.
More importantly the so-called focus on Pakistan is a red herring. Special Ops and predator strikes do not win wars, and in the recent past Israel’s policy of targeted assassination came under withering critiques from the same people who are now advocating such tactics in Pakistan. The limits of air power were found during the “No-Fly Zones” imposed on Iraq in the 1990’s as well as the conflict in the Balkans and the various cruise missile strikes on terror camps in Afghanistan before 9-11. In all three cases nothing changed until American and NATO boots hit the ground.
I believe that this is a conscious decision to retreat in the war against al-Qaeda without appearing to do so. The air strikes in Pakistan are extremely unpopular there and destabilize the government further. By switching America’s focus to this tactic, Obama can always say later that the strikes have achieved their goals without offering any proof. He can also state that the attacks are breaches of international law – which they technically are – and therefore must cease. In short this allows Obama to end the war quickly without much effort and without destroying al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Since Obama may agree with elements of the hard Left believe that terrorism is more of a symptom rather than a disease, he would then be able to address the root causes of the terror: Israel, American hegemony, and Capitalism. In his short time in office Obama has attacked all three with a vigor that hasn’t been seen in the Oval Office since Bush had Saddam Hussein in his sights, so retreating from Afghanistan and Pakistan fits his long term strategy.
Biden may be blinded by his ego, but Obama is can’t see through the Hyde Park haze obscuring the reality that there are men who desire nothing less than the destruction of our way of life and the imposition of theirs upon us. Israel, America – these have always been excuses meant to deceive us into thinking that our actions are to blame for the terrorists attacks against us. Actions are relatively easy to change: we can leave Israel to it’s fate with a congressional vote and a presidential signature. It’s much more difficult to accept Bin Laden’s interpretation of Islam and all that entails.
I do not believe for a moment that Obama wants to burn the Constitution and enslave the nation under Bin Laden’s idea of Sharia. However I do believe that his ideology bars him from seeing the reality of the conflict in the same way that LBJ’s and McNamara’s Cold War beliefs kept them from seeing the reality on the ground in Vietnam. It took years and the loss of tens of thousands of American and South Vietnamese lives before Reality burst into the Oval Office and an effective political and military strategy was pursued in Vietnam. But by that time it was too late, the war was over and we were defeated.
Such an outcome is in America’s future unless Obama drops his ideological bias and Biden his illusions of grandeur. But will this happen before the next terrorist attack on American soil? For the sake of all Americans – liberal and conservative – I hope so.