- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009




One often reads and hears that Afghanistan has become “Obama’s war.” The implication by many is that if things go badly in Afghanistan, President Obama will be blamed and it will cause him political damage. But if things go well, who will get the credit? It won’t be former President George W. Bush, of that you can be sure.

Is it fair to call Afghanistan “Obama’s war?” I think not. Whenever American soldiers are at war, it is in the interest of all Americans, whatever their political beliefs, to back the president until the objectives of victory and stability are achieved and the troops are able to come home.

Anyone who hopes Mr. Obama will suffer defeat is guilty of un-Americanism, even anti-Americanism. There is nothing patriotic about wishing military defeat in order to win the next election. If American policy prevails in Afghanistan, it will not be a victory of party or presidents, this one or the one before. It will be a victory for liberty - for the Afghan people and for America.

With the presidential campaign long over, Mr. Obama sounded like his predecessor on Friday as he outlined his reasoning for continued prosecution of this war: “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries. … The road ahead will be long. There will be difficult days ahead.”

Mr. Obama has said that among his objectives is to locate “moderate” members of the Taliban. Moderate members of the Taliban? He would have better luck finding pork chops at a kosher restaurant. If there are any moderate Taliban members, I suspect that, once exposed, they will not enjoy long and happy lives.

Some of the president’s other objectives seem more realistic. In addition to sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces, Mr. Obama said he also wants to dispatch “agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That’s how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs.”

He wants support from the United Nations, international aid organizations and America’s partners and allies. One would hope those partners and allies who expressed joy over Mr. Obama’s election will follow through and give him the help he requests, because defeating the Taliban is also in their best interests. Conservatives are more likely to support Mr. Obama on Afghanistan than liberals supported Mr. Bush on Iraq as long as victory over the Taliban remains his objective. If the effort is successful, the credit should be shared with Mr. Bush, just as equal credit is due to Democratic and Republican presidents who fought the Cold War.

However, even if the Taliban is defeated in Afghanistan, that defeat will not end its fanatical threats against Israel, America and Western Europe (which is why we’re all in this battle together). The Taliban’s hatred of Israel and the West is like an infection that is resistant to treatment. Just when you think you’ve neutralized it, it pops up again. Radical Islam in all its forms - whether it is named Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah or one of a dozen other monikers - has no intention of signing a surrender document with the West. That is because Islamic terrorists believe they get their instructions directly from Allah. Most would rather die than surrender or make peace with infidels.

Mr. Obama, like Mr. Bush before him, should hasten that objective. If Mr. Obama continues on this path, he should have the full support of the American people. All of them.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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