My fellow traveler Tony Cordesman has an excellent op-ed in the Washington Post. “Fellow traveler” should be taken literally: we’ve gone on a couple of trips together to Israel to assess the security situation there. He is by no means a “fellow traveler” in the ideological sense, as he shows with an offhand and inaccurate reference to George W. Bush as a “failed wartime president.” (Last I checked, we are still winning in Iraq and have by no means lost in Afghanistan.) But that makes his findings all the more powerful and persuasive when he writes, after having served on an advisory panel to Gen. Stan McChrystal, that we need more U.S. troops, more civilians, and more funding in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities. They are pressuring the president to direct Eikenberry and McChrystal to come to Washington to present a broad set of strategic concepts rather than specific requests for troops, more civilians, money and an integrated civil-military plan for action. They are pushing to prevent a fully integrated civil-military effort, and to avoid giving Eikenberry and McChrystal all the authority they need to try to force more unity of effort from allied forces and the U.N.-led aid effort.
If these elements succeed, President Obama will be as much a failed wartime president as George W. Bush. He may succeed in lowering the political, military and financial profile of the war for up to a year, but in the process he will squander our last hope of winning. This would only trade one set of political problems for a far worse set in the future and leave us with an enduring regional mess and sanctuary for extremism. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not.
So far President Obama has heeded warnings that he needed to do more to salvage a failing war effort in Afghanistan. Let us hope that he pays attention again and takes actions that are sure to be unpopular in the short term, especially with the left-wing of his own party (which is now calling for a “flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan”).
Only by adding more resources can Obama offer the prospect of long-term victory in a war effort that he himself has deemed a “war of necessity.”