Larger com­mit­ment needed to be sure . . .

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Eight years ago, just 25 days af­ter the vi­cious at­tacks of Sept. 11, the United States struck back at the Tal­iban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Thir­tythree days later, U.S.-sup­ported “North­ern Al­liance” troops were in Kabul — and the rem­nants of al Qaeda and their Tal­iban hosts were in re­treat to Kandahar and moun­tain re­doubts along the Afghan-Pak­istani bor­der.

All this was pre­ceded by in­tense diplo­macy and a vir­tu­ally non-stop, pub­licly-aired se­ries of pres­i­den­tial an­nounce­ments, press con­fer­ences, speeches, de­bates, and dis­cus­sions at the White House, from the badly dam­aged Pen­tagon, in con­gres­sional hear­ings — even at the United Na­tions. In De­cem­ber 2001, three months af­ter the United States was at­tacked, pub­lic ap­proval for Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom was nearly 90 per­cent. To­day, fewer than half of Amer­i­cans sup­port con­tin­ued U.S. mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan. The dif­fer­ence is lead­er­ship.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is now in its ninth month of a self­in­flicted quandary over what to do about Afghanistan. Hu­man preg­nancy and giv­ing birth takes less time and is, at least ac­cord­ing to my wife, the mother of four, less painful.

On his first day in of­fice, Mr. Obama promised a new era of “open­ness and trans­parency” in Wash­ing­ton. “The Gov­ern­ment,” he ex­plained, “should not keep in­for­ma­tion con­fi­den­tial merely be­cause pub­lic offi- cials might be em­bar­rassed by dis­clo­sure, be­cause er­rors and fail­ures might be re­vealed, or be­cause of spec­u­la­tive or ab­stract fears.”

Meet­ings would be open, voices would be heard and the pub­lic would be fully in­formed about the ac­tions of gov­ern­ment, we were told. To this end, Mr. Obama in­structed: “Nondis­clo­sure should never be based on an ef­fort to pro­tect the per­sonal in­ter­ests of Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at the ex­pense of those they are sup­posed to serve.”

How­ever, non-dis­clo­sure has be­come the or­der of the day when it comes to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy on Afghanistan — and pub­lic con­fi­dence in Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom has plum­meted. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­cras­ti­na­tion, vac­il­la­tion and se­crecy about “the op­tions in Afghanistan” have also eroded in­ter­na­tional sup­port — once con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial com­po­nent for a suc­cess­ful cam­paign.

On Oct. 1, Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, Mr. Obama’s hand­picked se­nior com­man­der, ad­dressed the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Strate­gic Stud­ies in Lon­don. Though his ap­pear­ance and re­marks were ap­proved in ad­vance, the gen­eral has since been re­buked for warn­ing that the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan is “se­ri­ous” and “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing” and that “wait­ing does not pro­long a fa­vor­able out­come.” He added that the ef­fort “will not re­main winnable in­def­i­nitely, and nor will pub­lic sup­port.” He was right.

Two weeks ago De­fense Sec- re­tary Robert Gates, never known for back­ing his sub­or­di­nates in any of his pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions, ad­mon­ished the gen­eral. Speak­ing at the an­nual meet­ing of the As­so­ci­a­tion of the U.S. Army, Mr. Gates said that while Mr. Obama de­lib­er­ates on Afghanistan, “it is im­per­a­tive that all of us tak­ing part in th­ese de­lib­er­a­tions — civil­ians and mil­i­tary alike — pro­vide our best ad­vice to the pres­i­dent can­didly but pri­vately.”

On Oct. 6, con­gres­sional leaders were sum­moned to the White House and handed the same sheet of mu­sic. It didn’t work quite as well as the OTeam had hoped. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, clearly re­pelled by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid’s sug­ges­tion that Democrats would “sup­port what­ever” the ad­min­is­tra­tion de­cided to do in Afghanistan took up the at­tack on Gen. McChrys­tal: “With all due re­spect, his rec­om­men­da­tions to the pres­i­dent should go up the line of com­mand. They shouldn’t be in press con­fer­ences.” Sen. John Kerry, chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee said “It would be ir­re­spon­si­ble” to send more troops un­til it be­comes clear “what is pos­si­ble in Afghanistan.”

In­stead of mak­ing Gen. McChrys­tal avail­able for con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony — as the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion did with Gen. David Pe­traeus in 2006 — the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­cided to muz­zle their bat­tle­field com­man­der. It is a se­ri­ous mis­take.

Mr. Obama, en­meshed in an in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar war and an up­hill fight for his am­bi­tious do­mes­tic pol­icy agenda, is now at risk of go­ing the way of Lyn­don John­son. “Land­slide Lyn­don,” in­tent on pur­su­ing his “Great So­ci­ety” goals, re­fused wise coun­sel to “go for a victory or not at all” in Viet­nam. In­stead, Mr. John­son piece­mealed forces into the fight in what he called “in­cre­men­tal es­ca­la­tion.” It was a dis­as­ter that need not and should not be re­peated in the shad­ows of the Hindu Kush.

Gen. McChrys­tal has de­fined victory: a sta­ble, pro-West­ern gov­ern­ment in Kabul that re­spects the hu­man rights of the peo­ple of Afghanistan. He has asked for what he needs to win: more U.S. troops; im­proved re­con­struc­tion aid; clearer lines of com­mand and con­trol and more help build­ing na­tional in­fra­struc­ture — roads, schools, clin­ics and hos­pi­tals.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple — whose sons and daugh­ters have vol­un­teered to serve in harm’s way — de­serve to hear this di­rectly from Gen. McChrys­tal. If the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to win this war, they will dis­patch Gen. McChrys­tal to Congress with bet­ter or­ders other than, “Quiet, please.”

Oliver North is the host of “War Sto­ries” on the Fox News Chan­nel, the au­thor of “Amer­i­can He­roes,” and the founder and honorary chair­man of Free­dom Al­liance.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.