The attack of September 11th, 2001 was our generation’s Pearl Harbor. The Al Qaeda terrorists received succor, protection and encouragement from the Taliban government and accordingly acted as an agency of that government just as surely as the Japanese naval air forces that attacked Pearl Harbor acted as an agency of the government of Japan.
In 1941, President Roosevelt asked for, and received, a declaration of war from Congress as provided in the Constitution. He then put the entire might and fury of the nation into the war and within 3 ½ years we had utterly vanquished the two most powerful armies on the planet. Only then did we establish military governments that ordered Japanese and German society to our liking, and only after we were satisfied that the new governments would endure did we relinquish control. Japan and Germany have since been among our closest allies.
How different was our response in 2001. Then, President Bush came before Congress, promised to bring the individuals responsible for the attack to justice and then invited the nation to go shopping. He sought an ambiguous resolution authorizing the use of force at his discretion and deployed armed forces that were wholly inadequate to subdue and control the population of that nation. Two years later he invaded a nation that had nothing to do with the attack.
For eight years now, the valiant men and women of our armed forces have fought with constraints never before imposed on American soldiers because of a strategy compromised by irresolution, and political correctness. The current administration has inherited an untenable situation. But it continues and amplifies the folly of its predecessor in three critical areas.
First, the administration has defined victory not as destroying the ability and will of the enemy to make war, but rather as “winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.” This is a mistake. One nation cannot win the hearts and minds of another nation while waging war against it. The civilian populations of Germany and Japan despised the American occupation but were so exhausted and decimated that they could no longer resist it. It was then and only then – under military government and authority – that we began to shape those societies in a manner acceptable to civilized nations.
Second, the administration has placed absurd restrictions on our forces that have greatly complicated their mission, and endangered their security. War is mankind’s most terrible scourge; it is barbaric and cruel and destroys many innocent lives. Most of the casualties of World War II were civilians. If we are to put our soldiers into combat, it must be with the freedom to wage war whether or not civilians happen to be present.
Third, MacArthur was correct: in war there is no substitute for victory. By committing inadequate force to win the war and simultaneously announcing our timetable for withdrawal, I fear that President Obama has assured continued stalemate and given the enemy its most valuable ally: time. This policy further undermines the administration’s own civilian-centric strategy by relying on the cooperation of civilians who can reasonably anticipate a return of the Taliban within weeks of the already-announced American withdrawal in the summer of 2011.
However, the precipitous withdrawal of American troops has grave implications that will follow us many years into the future and requires a belief beyond a reasonable doubt that greater harm will come to America by continuing the war than by ending it.
If America immediately withdraws its troops as ordered by H.Con.Res. 248, we can reasonably predict on the one hand that we will prevent American casualties and conserve American wealth. But the cost will almost certainly be the immediate collapse of Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban, the re-establishment of Al Qaeda sanctuaries, the execution of Afghans who assisted the American forces, and the recognition by hostile governments around the world that America is incapable of defending her interests. The last outcome is the most dangerous because it will figure into countless calculations in unfriendly capitals around the world that could well cost many thousands of American lives in the future.
We can be far more confident in predicting the immediate harm from withdrawal than we can predict conditions a year from now for two reasons.
The first is the unpredictability of war. The President has recently altered the strategy by ordering a troop surge. For all the reasons discussed above, I doubt that it will succeed but I also must concede that it might. Skepticism that the administration will succeed is not the same as certainty that it will fail.
The second reason is that policy can change. The administration has already hedged considerably on its withdrawal announcement. At any time it could restore common sense to its rules of engagement and provide ample force to produce victory. If the strategy is changed then the outcome is changed, but that possibility is foreclosed if the resolution is adopted.
In short, the immediate and irremediable harm from a sudden troop withdrawal far outweighs my skepticism of our current strategy and tactics. For that reason, I oppose House Concurrent Resolution 248.
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March 10, 2010