‘Afghanistan and the Left’ by Bret Stephens (ready to run on the Right?)

A month ago, Ralph Peters made it very clear what he thinks about the “right war.”

Afghanistan is history’s black hole. But President Obama has made Afghanistan his baby to show that he’s strong on security. What’s the end-state, Mr. President? How do we get there? How do you solve the greater Pakistan problem?

By sending another 30,000 US hostages in uniform? Define the mission — what, specifically, are they supposed to accomplish? God knows, every decent American should want this ragamuffin surge to succeed — but it’s the military equivalent of the financial bailout package: Just throw more resources at a problem and hope something works.

Personally, I’m sick of seeing our troops used as a substitute for intelligent policies — while every wonk in Washington drones on about there being no military solution to war, for God’s sake. No military solution? Great. Bring the troops home and deploy more diplomats, contractors and accountants. See how long they survive.

It’s grimly entertaining to observe how American leftists, who shrieked that we should “support the troops, bring them home” while Iraq was all the rage, won’t say “Boo!” about Obama’s war of choice. (They’re still not enlisting, either.) Our botched deployment to Afghanistan as warriors who morphed into squatters defies military logic, history and common sense. The Brits learned — finally — that you deal with Afghan problems by occasionally hammering Afghans, then leaving them to sort out their own mess. You kill the guilty and leave.

To be clear, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Peters knows there is an enemy in the War on Terror and wars are fought until one side loses. We need to decide if victory in Afghanistan is worth its price or if, strategically, we should do something else.

In part, Bret Stephens wrote today in the Wall Street Journal in opposition to the never-wage-war-on-the-enemy Left’s (America’s) sudden, less than subtle suggestion that President Barack Obama withdraw from Afghanistan:

The real heart of our Afghan problem lies in our expectations of what this primitive and riven country is ever likely to become. The achievement of the past seven years lies mainly in what Afghanistan has not become: To wit, a safe haven for some of the worst people on earth.

That’s no small thing, though selling Americans on what amounts to a negative achievement will not be easy. (Just ask George Bush about all the credit he gets for no new 9/11s.) Nor will it be easy for Mr. Obama to sell his rank and file on an Afghan surge after he did such a terrific job as a candidate of trashing the Iraq surge. Congratulations, Mr. President: You’ve got a war to sell.

Which brings us back to the left. Much will never go right in Afghanistan, but that doesn’t mean things couldn’t be a lot worse. For instance, Joe Biden can continue to trash Hamid Karzai, as Jack Kennedy trashed Ngo Dinh Diem. Or we could pursue a talk-and-fight approach to the Taliban, as Lyndon Johnson did with North Vietnam. Or the antiwar movement of the present could give encouragement to our enemies in the Middle East that they can bleed America into withdrawal, as a previous generation of peace activists encouraged Ho Chi Minh. [Ed. — And this generation’s peace activists encouraging our enemies in Iraq.]

I do not claim to know all that it would take to win the war in Afghanistan. Yet I do know that we are there now, we have paid with American blood and treasure for whatever ground and progress we’ve made there, and leaving would return a sanctuary to al Qaeda’s and Taliban’s butchers.

Leaving them alone the last time cost America dearly.

If not in Afghanistan now, then where and when should we fight and defeat those enemies? Does it make sense to just say that we’ve punished them enough for now, withdraw, and plan to go back to kill more later, after they come and kill more of us?

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