News leaks tell us that President Obama will announce he is sending another 34,000 troops to Afghanistan. Also, that NATO will be sending another 5,000 – remember, this is the only time NATO has ever declared a war under Article V of its foundational treaty, which provided for mutual shared defense. The President will also explain what the additional troops will be doing.
I do not know if the President’s military prescriptions are the correct ones, although we must all hope that they are. But, what he needs to do tonight is to persuade the American people why we should continue the war, why it still matters, why the options for action are all bad yet still better than the option of doing nothing.
In a word, he needs to do carefully and precisely what his predecessor did with such reckless abandon that many Americans have lost sight of the central reason for our military presence in Afghanistan. President Obama needs to remind us about just how evil Osama bin Laden is, how intractable is his hatred of the West, and how dangerous it is to the actual, physical security of the United States if we do not contain bin Laden and his Taliban confreres.
We Americans like instantaneous results. For eight years, George W. Bush promised us such results. Remember Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld arguing that the war in Iraq would cost $50 billion and expressing shocked indignation when a reporter asked if the total cost might not be closer to $100 billion? But, if we have learned anything about Afghanistan in the past eight years it is that nothing happens quickly there. Nor is a straight-forward victory necessarily a realistic aim. Like the old Soviet Union, containment may be the best option we have. And anyone who thinks containing murderous thugs like the Taliban is not a goal worthy of the American Republic needs to recall the evil done to America on September 11, 2001.