Alexander’s Essay –
June 23, 2011
Political Expediency vs. National Security
“[I]t is a common observation here that our cause is
the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in
defending our own.” –Benjamin Franklin
On the horizon
In opposition to the advice of military and intelligence
advisers — but with the support of popular polls — Barack Hussein Obama is
moving ahead with his plan to withdraw American forces from
Afghanistan beginning this July. In other words, though the drawdown does not
comport with the best interests of U.S. national security, it does conform to his 2012
political campaign agenda.
Obama rolled out his worn rhetoric about Iraq being the wrong
war, which distracted our nation from the right war, Afghanistan, which would
seem to contradict his drawdown plans. As you recall, President George W. Bush
launched Operation Enduring Freedom against al-Qa’ida and their Taliban hosts in
Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, in response to the 9/11 attack on our nation. Operation Iraqi Freedom was not launched until 20
March 2003, after Saddam Hussein refused, repeatedly, to comply with UN
Resolution 1441, giving him “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament
At the time, we had ongoing combat operations over Iraq
enforcing the “no-fly zone,” and arguably, “Desert Storm 2.0” was necessitated
because we departed Iraq prematurely after the first Desert Storm in
Obama credited himself with having taken “decisive action” in
late 2009 by ordering a troop surge of 30,000 to Afghanistan. History will note,
however, that he dithered for several months before finally granting his
military commanders a smaller surge force than the one they’d requested, and
that he hamstrung our forces by announcing a date certain by which we’d begin to
Obama has committed to withdraw at least 33,000 of our 100,000
warfighters in the region by “next summer,” just in time to mollify his anti-war
base and re-energize them for the 2012 presidential election. That would be
30,000 more than his advisers requested, which might explain why he made no
mention of General David Petraeus, Commander of the International Security
Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
In early May, besieged with the failure of his socialist economic policies, BHO received a
short-lived bounce in the polls after announcing that he (read “U.S. Special Forces“) killed Osama bin Laden,
thanks to intelligence “extracted” from Jihadi insurgents captured in Iraq when
George Bush was president.
As Obama’s domestic policies continue to fail miserably, and his
popular approval sinks to new lows, he hopes to get another pop-poll bounce with
the announcement of the Afghan drawdown. He jibed, “America, it is time to focus
on nation-building here at home,” but just hours before, Federal Reserve
chairman Ben Bernanke downgraded the outlook for the U.S. economic recovery, the
direct result of Obama’s “nation building here at home.”
All political shenanigans aside, the question we should ask is
what action in Afghanistan is in the best long-term interest of our national
security? Is our nation-building strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan the right
strategy, or will targeted hunt and kill operations suffice.
For the record, the primary national security objective of both
Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were not, first
and foremost, to eradicate dictators and establish democracy and free enterprise
through extensive and expensive nation-building efforts. Our objective was to
contain the nuclear threat posed by asymmetric elements in
In plain words, our objective was (and should remain) to prevent
the detonation by Jihadi terrorists of a nuclear device in one or more U.S.
urban centers. If you think the cost of keeping the battle on their turf for the
last 10 years has been expensive, try calculating the cost of recovery after a
fissile weapon detonation in Boston or Baltimore, and the resulting economic
consequence. Notably, the economic collapse of 2008 can be linked directly
to the economic consequences of the 9/11 attack, but those consequences were
minor in comparison to the cost of a nuclear attack.
The nuclear deterrence objective depends on a coherent Long War strategy to combat Islamist adversaries
in the region, and around the world, but Obama has now made clear his intent to
short-circuit that objective for his political expedience.
Obama errantly believes that concessions will inspire our Jihadi
foes in al-Qa’ida’s broad and amorphous terrorist network to go home in peace. However, since he took office,
casualties in Afghanistan have increased five-fold. If history repeats itself —
and it will — Obama’s foreign policy today will cost us dearly at some future
date. Retreat from Afghanistan without a clear military victory will be seen by
jihadists as a victory for al-Qa’ida and Islamo-Facists around the world.
(Tellingly, he never once used the words “win” or “victory” last night when he
announced his rationale for withdrawing our forces.)
Obama was a national security neophyte when he entered
office, and he hasn’t learned much since then. Rather than exhibit leadership, a
personality characteristic that remains enigmatic to him, Obama is content to
follow the polls.
Unquestionably, most Americans want to “bring the troops home.”
Of course we do. The 10-year campaign to contain Islamists in Afghanistan has
cost our nation the lives of 1,522 of its Patriot warriors — about half the
number of Americans killed on 9/11 — and more than 10,000 injured. But the
consequences of a rapid drawdown will cost us far more lives in the
This is clear to military leaders stateside, and military
commanders in Afghanistan.
Of Obama’s foreign policy, departing SecDef Robert Gates said of
his decision to resign, “I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States
as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to
sustain that position. … I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a
government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement
with the rest of the world.” (Gates’s successor, Leon Panetta, will be charged
with dramatic military cuts as Obama continues to massively expand the size and
role of the central government, creating a “debt bomb,” perhaps more perilous to our national
security than the Jihadi threat.)
Real Leadership: Gen. David
According to my sources, Gen. Petraeus has warned Obama that his
proposed drawdown is too much, too soon, and that the current level of U.S.
military personnel is needed for at least another year to turn the tide. U.S.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan, Regional Command Southwest, has expressed
similar concerns, as has Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of NATO Training
However, it is the Army and Marine commanders on the frontlines
in Afghanistan whose opinion we give greatest weight, because their perspective
is unfettered by political agendas.
Having contacted five commanders at the O-5 to O-6 ranks on the
ground in Afghanistan, I can present the following composite of the perspectives
they shared with me: If we leave on Obama’s political timeframe, not only will
Afghanistan return to the breeding ground for terrorists as it was prior to
2003, but Islamists are likely to overtake Pakistan, a nuclear power on the
precipice of chaos. In addition to redoubling their campaign against Israel and
Western targets, they may also set their sights on India, another nuclear power,
and the scene fades to dark after that. The rhetoric about timelines and
drawdowns is counterproductive, because what our allied Afghans and Pakistanis
hear is that America is abandoning them. That belief only serves to embolden the
Taliban, al-Qa’ida and other Islamo-Fascists in the region, including those in
Iran. Region-wide, Obama’s policies portray us as uncommitted and untrustworthy,
which further demoralizes the moderates we seek to empower. In short, this is a
war against a formidable adversary that we must continue to prosecute if our
ultimate objective — keeping the battlefront on their turf rather than ours —
is to be maintained.
In summation, one Marine officer put it this way: “When I hear
Obama say ‘the American people want me to end this war and I am responding with
an exit plan,’ that’s the antithesis of leadership. President Bush, against the
popular will, surged forces here, and that was the right policy and required
The death of OBL gave BHO a temporary boost in the polls. Using
that as a catalyst to draw down our forces in Afghanistan he might enjoy another
temporary boost. But the bottom line that gets lost in this debate is the
potential that Islamist terrorists will one day detonate a nuke on U.S.
Graham Allison, Director of Harvard’s Center for Science and
International Affairs, and a leading analyst of U.S. national security and
defense policy pertaining to nuclear weapons and terrorism, grimly notes in
regard to a nuclear attack on the U.S., “I think that we should be very thankful
that it hasn’t happened already. … We’re living on borrowed time.”
Unfortunately, while we
currently control the clock, we’re about to pass it back to the bad guys through
Barack Obama’s malfeasance.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!