Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:
Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.
And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.
Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.
Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.
Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.