Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)
It was a masterful performance at the White House this afternoon. There was President Barack Obama alongside President Hamid Karzai, who was in town with his tin cup and signature cape and hat, asking for more assistance to save his country. Karzai has become a master at this act over the years and today’s performance was pure, classic Karzai. Obama, on the other hand, played a new card. Since he couldn’t, with a straight face, say we had achieved anything there that could be remotely considered positive, he called up a new play. Looking as serious as he possibly could, Obama came very close to telling the truth about Afghanistan. He actually said that the U.S. fell “short of the ideal in Afghanistan.”
While this is hardly a news flash to anyone with the most basic understanding of what’s happening in this third-world hell hole, it does show a remarkable insight into how our president, the man America has now elected president twice, actually thinks about America. While he had a wonderful opportunity to tell the world the truth about the failure in Afghanistan, he only told part of the story. While it is true that America has fallen short there, he failed to tell us why. Instead, he fell back on the old liberal theme of always blaming America first whenever anything goes wrong in the world. I doubt if any of the reporters there will pick up on this remarkable insight and that is a tragedy in itself.
He should have taken this opportunity to tell the whole truth, right there is front of Hamid Karzai, who has presided over an interlocking criminal enterprise there for over eleven years, stealing billions in American aid and sending it to bands in Dubai. He could have held Karzai responsible for the total failure of the Afghan security forces in battling the Taliban. He could have discussed the alarming increase in so called “insider attacks,” where members of the Afghan army and Afghan National Police, forces controlled by Karzai, continue to murder coalition forces. He could have held the Afghan government responsible for Afghanistan producing 97% of the world’s opium supply, an illegal activity that funds and supports the Taliban and is conducted with the full support of the Afghan government. However, none of these embarrassing issues were discussed today because that would be considered very undiplomatic by our president. Neither was the sorry plight of women in Afghanistan discussed and the fact that most marriages there are forced, which accounts for Afghanistan having the world’s highest suicide rate for women between the ages of 15 and 25. Rather, Obama decided to say that the U.S. simply fell short in achieving the ideal for Afghanistan.
Nor was there any discussion on what Obama said about Afghanistan when he was running for president back in 2008. Back then, Obama said Afghanistan was “the good war,” the war we had to win because Afghanistan was far different that Iraq, which was George Bush’s war, a war we should have never fought. There really was no need for this, since Obama has been safely reelected for a second term after successfully exploiting Afghanistan for his first presidential victory. He realizes that Americans have short memories and reminding them of this would only be an inconvenient truth. Far better to simply let it lie.
In the end, he did say something to the effect that much good has been accomplished with the assistance of our Afghan allies and that he is confident the Afghans can take over the security for the country at the end of 2014. However, he said nothing about that little three letter active verb, “win,” because even Obama realizes that’s never going to happen now. Nor did he say anything about the Americans that are still dying there for no reason other than defending Karzai’s criminal enterprise.
There was a time in America when we expected our presidents to actually be presidential. Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” Truman would never say “the U.S. fell short,” because he was the U.S. to the outside world. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world anymore. The world we live in today lets our president escape any responsibility for his failure to be presidential. If, indeed, the U.S. fell short, who is Obama really blaming? The troops on the ground, who have to fight under very harsh and restrictive rules of engagement that do not let them engage the enemy? The commanders who refuse to carry out his orders? If that’s the case, why aren’t the rules of engagement changed or the commanders fired? After all, he’s the Commander in Chief and he alone has the authority to do that.
Of course, none of the reporters at the White House today wanted to ask these questions because that would appear to be bad form. None of them wanted to remind Obama that he had once said Afghanistan was “the good war,” a war we had to win. This story, no doubt, will be replaced with other stories in the daily news cycle and over the weekend, it will fade from the public conscience. After all, the NFL playoffs are coming up and everyone has a favorite team.
America has a lot to think about and the daily cycle of living tends to consume us. However, in a rare moment of reflection, we should pause to think about this story. While it doesn’t offer us much new information on our president, it does speak volumes about us. From time to time, we do need to think about those fine young men and women on the ground in Afghanistan, risking everything in our name, and realizing that our president, their Commander in Chief, just threw them under the bus for a photo op with Hamid Karzai. Is it possible that Obama is actually right after all in blaming the U.S. for falling short in Afghanistan because we did, indeed, make his president?
About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police. As of 2012, this force totals 157,000. From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war. It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.