One of the more troubling reactions from the left that I saw during President Obama's speech about our Afghanistan policy was this utter and absolute nonsense that Obama was somehow invoking the spirit of George W. Bush by discussing our Afghan strategy and 9/11.
I dunno, maybe its due to years and years of Rudy Giuliani's noun-verb construction or the simplistic, numb language of George W. Bush beating the common sense out of our ears, but it is as clear as can be that the reason we are in Afghanistan is because of 9/11. The connection of Afghanistan to 9/11 is legions away from the made-up Iraq to 9/11 connection. Afghanistan and 9/11 are as linked for all time as closely as Tokyo is connected to December 7, 1941.
We were attacked on 9/11 by the Al Qaeda network, who had safe haven under the Taliban in Afghanistan. Unlike so much of what swirls around in our world is not in dispute. At that time we demanded that Afghanistan turn over Al Qaeda. They refused. We invaded.
Again, these things are clear. Not a single characterization of them by President Obama deviated from what we all saw.
I supported Obama for many reasons, but for me, personally, the primary reason was that George W. Bush failed to fight the war against terrorism -- specifically the Al Qaeda network -- in any competent manner. Al Qaeda's stated desire to hurt and cripple the country -- stated time and again by Bin Laden and his lieutenants -- demands a strong and clear response from us. Basically from the standoff at Tora Bora until now, the response to this challenge has been mush.
It makes me feel weird, but in this instance I see many on the left absolutely playing to the stereotypes of the right. If we simply withdraw, this does not keep us safer. Just because George W. Bush royally screwed up as commander-in-chief, it doesn't mean that America never fights again. Afghanistan isn't Iraq. This isn't about imaginary weapons of mass destruction, or a terror "connection" that's the fevered dream of a hack Weekly Standard writer. Suicide bombers hit in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania directly based on the orders and finances of the people we're after in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border region.
I am not someone who is a kneejerk supporter of war and military action, but I feel that when we or our allies are under threat or have been attacked, we often need to respond militarily with a clear set of stated goals and an exit plan. The whole reason I didn't support the war in Iraq but support the war in Afghanistan is based on how each conflict meets the test.
Obama made great pains to point out that for the war party on the right that this was not a blank check, this would not be an echo of that ridiculous Iraq plan Bush put out that just said "Victory!" on every page. In order to fight war, Obama has made clear that he seeks to emulate the successful strategies of Presidents like Lincoln and Roosevelt. We aren't increasing troop strength in Afghanistan to satisfy John McCain or Charles Krauthammer. We're doing it in order to finish the crap job of the President they supported for almost a decade.
If you don't support increasing the amount of troops, that is a fine and patriotic position to have -- though I vehemently disagree with it -- but folks on the left have got to quit rewriting history by pretending Obama is somehow suddenly a hawk on the Afghanistan situation. Similarly, the connection between 9/11 and Afghanistan isn't simply the rhetorical flourish of a leader, but stuff that actually exists. Those making honest arguments in opposition to the President's policy should adhere to the reality-based school of argument.
I think the President spoke to us as adults about the single biggest security threat to the country, an issue on par with the economy in relation to its importance (an economic recovery is no good if we don't have our way of life). I think he made, finally, a clear case about this threat and our solution to it that he plans to implement. I think at the end of the day this is how to clean up the mess left for us by the previous administration, while also doing what is in our power to defend ourselves and our allies.
Oliver Willis blogs daily at OliverWillis.com