Yesterday I read the speech given by the President on his evolving position on the Global War on Terror, also known as contingency operations, also known as The Atlantic tells us now as “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” or The PTE for short.
At the end, the speech was a poor rationalization for the blood on the hands of the President. The Establishment had its opinion. I have mine.
The speech was pedantic; a recital of the history of where we have been in conflict for the past 30 years, invoking the Beirut bombings of 1983 and Lockerbie in 1988 and even the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard a cruise ship. Historically and philosophically the president was rolling the history and motives for Middle Eastern terrorism into a great big ball and declaring victory.
He declared victory a couple of years ago after Bin Laden was killed, but then came Benghazi and Boston and now London. Now he is really declaring victory, I guess.
With over 7,000 military deaths and the imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President also declared victory in Somalia and Yemen and that we have driven Islamic radicalism into the shadows. He ignored the reality of the radicals in Syria who have taken to beheadings and ritual cannibalism and of the Shia/Sunni divide that is being fought out and threatens to engulf neighboring states.
He minimized the underlying nature of the conflict in North Africa where the militants want to establish their own state or where Sudan has been waging war on non-Muslims for 20 years. Boko Haram in Nigeria is a recent phenomenon. And through all of this runs the thread of Al Quaeda.
Radical Islam has extended its influence throughout the tenure of this administration; in Egypt; in Yemen; in Libya. In Pakistan. The resentment and hatred have waxed rather than waned. While Brand Al Qaeda has been damaged, it has also gone underground and gone viral. Al Qaeda is now live on the internet 24/7.
As rioters take to the streets night after night in Sweden radical Islamists in Britain and America go DIY. Whole sections of French towns and some major cities such as Marseilles are no-go zones for the police where Sharia is the law and drug gangs and violence rule. There is an inherent contradiction in that last sentence, isn’t there? Why don’t we recognize this?
And the president would just as soon change the subject right now. Why not close Guantanamo? Problem gone and political voucher obtained. He now wants to convene a committee on drone strikes. Imagine this scenario: A terrorist is on the loose. A drone picks him up. Obama convenes a panel. This is worse than LBJ’s micromanagement of the Vietnam War.
There have been over 200 drone strikes. Hundreds of civilians and bystanders have been killed sparking outrage in Pakistan, where most of these strikes have taken place. The drone strikes have more than any other factor turned that country into an enemy.
The President has refused to account for the actions of our government during and after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
For over three months the President dithered in making a decision to attempt another Surge in Afghanistan in 2010, a surge that was undermanned and undercut by unrealistic timelines. We declared victory in that as well, if you recall.
Three years after that Surge, our troops now do ritual patrolling, much as we did in Vietnam before pulling out in 1972. Our soldiers and sailors will still die, but the spirit of construction and nation building was lost long ago in a miasma of corruption, underfunding, and a refusal to institute the rule of law.
From the moment in 2011 when the president telegraphed his intentions to withdraw by next year, the Taliban had already won. They just had to wait. But then, magically, the Taliban are no longer the issue. Only Al Quaeda and its defeat is the issue, at least as of yesterday. Declare victory and go home.
So for the past 5 years, every ounce of the blood of our military and of our international allies and of good Afghan allies can be considered wasted. The mission was not accomplished.
How does a leader live with himself or herself knowing that they have sent their best to to a death that strategically or tactically has little meaning? The sand will simply blow over our FOB’s and our COP’s as if they never existed. The Taliban will pose on what’s left as mongrel victors who simply outlasted their enemies.
Al Quaeda was always a distributed network and became even more so as we chalked up our successes against it. In response it morphed. Bin Laden was holed up in a safe house using messengers to communicate when he died. We reduced the organization’s effectiveness for a time, but it has not gone away as we would be led to believe. Jihad burns in the hearts of more people than ever before.
In the end, the buck stops in the oval office, much as the current tenant has tried to avoid this fact. He began by blaming Bush. But his vacillation and his poor decisions are his own and the blood is on his hands now.
It is Memorial Day weekend. I hope that our President remembers this and the cost in both the lives of our own and those whose lives we have taken.