By Matthew Rothschild on Mar 31, 2010
President Obama showed courage in going to Afghanistan to talk to the troops, but he’s just getting the U.S. in deeper over there.
The rhetoric he used on Sunday was at times distorting, and the thrust was distressing.
Like Bush, he summoned the 9/11 attack, saying, “We did not choose this war.” And he added: “This is the region where the perpetrators of that crime, al Qaeda, still base their leadership.”
That’s clever phrasing, to use the word “region” and not “country,” since Al Qaeda’s forces are no longer in Afghanistan. They’re in Pakistan.
So the U.S. is not waging a war against Al Qaeda anymore—and hasn’t been for years. It’s taking sides in a civil war, with the Pashtuns and the Taliban squaring off against warlords from the north and Karzai’s government.
But that’s a harder sell, so Obama didn’t make it.
Instead, he told the soldiers: “Your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America’s safety and security.” And he said, “The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit, we keep at it.”
So how does he square that rhetoric with his previous declaration that we’re going to bring troops home from Afghanistan starting next summer?
It’s all but impossible for the U.S. to “defeat and destroy Al Qaeda and its extremist allies,” though that’s what Obama said our goal is. It will be difficult to root out Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan, and even then, Al Qaeda would still flourish n its offshoots around the world. It will also be very difficult to “defeat and destroy” Al Qaeda’s “extremist allies.” Obama seemed to recognize this in another part of his speech, where he said part of U.S. strategy was to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum”—not vanquish it. Then there are Al Qaeda’s other “extremist allies,” ensconced in Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. And the United States to this date has not put enough pressure on the Pakistani government to sever this alliance.
Sixteen months from now, the odds are that the civil war in Afghanistan will look much the way it does today. And because Obama asserted that the outcome in Afghanistan is “absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America’s safety and security,” then there is no way the U.S. will be able to leave.
So prepare for a longer war. Obama’s rhetoric guarantees it.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.