Saturday, December 5, 2009

Setting up our military to fail

Just plain nuts: That's the only possible characterization for last night's presidential declaration of surrender in advance of a renewed campaign in Afghanistan.

President Obama will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan -- but he'll "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011." Then why send them?

If you're going to tell the Taliban to be patient because we're leaving, what's the point in upping the blood ante? For what will come down to a single year by the time the troops hit the ground?

Does Obama really expect to achieve in one year what we haven't been able to do in more than eight?

Adding to the confusion, Obama qualified his timeline by insisting that "we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground."

If conditions of the ground are key, why announce a pullout date?

And what did this "new strategy" come down to, otherwise? More of the same, but more: More troops, more civilians, more partnership.

Well, the troops will go, the civilians won't -- and the partnerships are a fantasy.

Our president is setting up our military to fail -- but he'll be able to claim that he gave the generals what they wanted. Failure will be their fault.

He's covering his strong-on-security flank, even as he plays to our white-flag wavers. His cynicism's worthy of a Saddam.

Obama's right about one thing, though: The Afghans "will ultimately be responsible for their own country." So why undercut them with an arbitrary timeline that doesn't begin to allow adequate time to expand and train sufficient Afghan forces? Does he really believe that young Afghans are going to line up to join the army and police knowing that we plan to abandon them in mid-2011?

Does the 2012 election ring a bell?

What messages did our president's bait-and-switch speech just send?

To our troops: Risk your lives for a mission I've written off.

To our allies: Race you to the exit ramp.

To the Taliban: Allah is merciful, your prayers will soon be answered.

To Afghan leaders: Get your stolen wealth out of the country.

To Pakistan: Renew your Taliban friendships now (and be nice to al Qaeda).

This isn't just stupid: It's immoral. No American president has ever espoused such a worthless, self-absorbed non-strategy for his own political gratification.

On the other hand, the stage lighting and the camera angles at West Point were terrific. Our president looked good. Jaw jutting high (in his "hope" pose), he decried political partisanship -- but spent more time blaming Bush and Iraq for our Afghan problems than he spent blaming the Taliban (check it with a stop-watch).

Nor did Obama miss a single chance to praise himself, insisting that he's already transformed our relationship with the Middle East (please notify the Iranians, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas) and that all of his dithering demonstrated wisdom.

This guy loves to hear himself talk. The last quarter of the speech was boiler-plate rhetoric that wandered off into the clouds. And that human-rights stuff? Where was that during his visits to China and Saudi Arabia? Hypocrisy, thy name is Barack.

Above all, where was the strategy? And where are the four-star resignations over a policy designed to squander American lives just to give an administration political cover?

After eight years of failure to create effective Afghan security forces and a responsible government, does anyone believe we can do it in 12 to 18 months?

"Target the insurgency"? Does that mean our soldiers will finally be permitted to go after our enemies and kill them? Nope. Those troops are going to "secure population centers." We'll be passive and let the enemy choose where and when to strike.

When fighting insurgents and terrorists, if you're not slamming them up against the wall and breaking their bones, you're losing. Obama isn't sending more troops -- he's sending more targets.

How do the Marines and soldiers slated to go to Afghanistan feel today, knowing that their commander-in-chief has already declared defeat?

By the time Obama finally got to Pakistan -- the refuge of evil -- he was spouting pure nonsense: "We are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust." But our interests diverge, we don't respect each other and we certainly don't trust each other.

Sounded good, though.

Mr. President, how can you send our troops to war without backing them all the way? How could you pull the strategic rug out from under them in advance? Why did you reassure the Taliban that we've already fixed a sell-by date? What's the bloody point?

At West Point last night, President Obama's delivery was superb. But what he was delivering was a funeral oration for his promised strategy.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."


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