- - Tuesday, August 22, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

All of Arabia (and Iran, too) is not worth the life of one American soldier as the price of conquest, but securing America against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is worth whatever it takes. Americans have no taste for colonial conquest, which is fundamental to the ideals of the republic. But neither do Americans cut and run when the wind is up.

President Trump inherited a mess in Afghanistan, the gift of an obstinate Barack Obama who could not bring himself to do the right and hard thing. He always thought the sound of his voice was sufficient. Mr. Trump himself did the right thing when he decided to commit more troops and a new strategy to do what is necessary to prevent turning Afghanistan over to the Taliban as a staging area for attacks on the United States and the West.

Mr. Obama, whose fear of firmness and resolve in the face of threats by the enemies of America is well known, imposed political limits on military operations. He set a limit on the days before the Americans would leave, inviting the Taliban to sit tight and wait for the opportunity to destroy the government in Kabul. Rarely has a military situation moving toward disaster and defeat had a name written so clearly on it.

Mr. Trump set no self-defeating timeline on his new strategy. “We are not nation-building again,” he said firmly in his eloquent address to the nation on Monday night. “We are killing terrorists.” Indeed, why else would a single American be there? Killing goes against the grain of every decent man or woman, but when it is necessary to kill it is necessary to kill, and the president was right to say it loud and plain.

Mr. Trump said he is lifting restrictions from Washington on the rules of military engagement, freeing the battlefield commanders to inflict persuasive pain on the Taliban without calling home to see if that’s all right. Blowing an uncertain trumpet on the battlefield invites only defeat and disaster.

Mr. Trump’s insistence that winning is the ultimate goal is reassuring. If spending blood is called for, America must extract value from the last full measure of the devotion of its soldiers. To do less is betrayal.

The president who campaigned on promises to withdraw the nation from fruitless military expeditions obviously came to his decision with difficulty, aware of the waiting jeers that he is but a flip-flop artist. Indeed, the reaction from “the loyal opposition” is support that is lukewarm at best. Like the troops he commands, he must be determined to soldier on.

He sent a sharp reminder to Pakistan, riven with the theological pressures that divide the Middle East and South Asia, that if it wants to continue to get billions of dollars worth of American aid it must decide whether it’s on the side of the terrorists lodged within its borders or on the side of those it calls allies. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” Mr. Trump told the nation Monday night. “That will have to change, and that will change immediately.”

Lukewarm support is found not only among the Democrats who are skeptical of everything this administration does. The isolationists on the Republican right want to withdraw from the world, too. But the president’s decision reflects an understanding, perhaps born of a late education, that that is not how the world works. Mr. Trump has shown a resolute face to that world, and he deserves the support of all.

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