Formulating the Afghan Mission, Part III
By Shoshana Bryen
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Even if we grant the President that in 18 months Afghanistan and Pakistan will be ready to police themselves-and will agree to our definition of who needs to be policed-by then al Qaeda will have moved on. American military reports say it is already established in eastern Syria affecting security in Iraq, and it is in Somalia. Other groups, allied with the goals and ideology of al Qaeda though not “card carrying” members, have established themselves elsewhere-including in Europe. Iran supports another whole raft of groups and organizations with ideology, training arms and money.
Contrary to the President Obama’s apparent expectation, his election did not change facts on the ground. America remains as it has for decades, at war with terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. Terrorists need what they can only get from states-money, room to hide and train, arms, passports and diplomatic cover. States often want what they can only get from terrorists-the ability to sow mayhem without a return address. It is that symbiotic relationship that must be broken.
This is not a war against Islam, and certainly not against Muslims. It is a war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan-but not against Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. It is a war with Iran, but not in Iran. It is a war against al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Ansar al Islam, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al Shabaab and others-wherever they are operating. It is a war for Turkey. The war is in Europe, in Indonesia and in the United States. It is in the United States Armed Forces.
The President was right when he said the Taliban must be degraded so that al Qaeda cannot use Afghan territory to plan and execute attacks against the United States or our allies. And he was right when he said the Pakistani government had to take on its own radicals and the Pakistani Taliban. But that’s not all and that’s not enough, and it won’t be done in 18 months.
It sounds hopeless; it is not. And it is not a call to fight or occupy countries. It is not a war only of military and intelligence battles-although those clearly must be fought and won. It is a war for the 21st Century, for individual liberties, consensual government and the rule of law. And in this war, the United States has allies all across the globe-the millions, or billions, of men and, most assuredly, women who do not want to be foot soldiers in someone’s war, who don’t hate and don’t want to kill-or be killed. Millions for whom liberty and personal security would enable material, spiritual and social progress.
They are the audience to which President Obama must offer hope that the United States will not turn away. It is important to bring economic growth to the United States-he is, after all, our president-but the President of the United States is more than that.
President Kennedy said in 1961, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
The “survival and success of liberty” will win the war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. It is military, it is economic, it is political and the United States has to be the engine of its success. Starting, but not only, in Afghanistan.
Bryen is special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (JINSA). Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.
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