In 2007, President-elect Obama called the war in Afghanistan the “right” war. At the time, not many people knew who the Taliban were, and Iraq was far from a success. It was an easy road for him to take during the campaign.
That’s why it’s so appalling that the Obama administration is following the easy road again by taking credit for Iraq—while in the Senate, he and Vice President Biden authored and were the chief architects of the resolution opposing the surge in Iraq. On Sunday, Biden was on NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’s Face the Nation. “I am very optimistic about Iraq,” he said. “I mean, this could be one of the greatest achievements of this administration.”
I wonder if Obama read Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile. If he did, I don’t think he would have called Afghanistan the “right” war in 2007. Then again, maybe he would have if it helped his poll numbers. At the very least, he would have learned how we helped defeat the Soviets with a small footprint.
Thanks to Wilson, who died last week, the largest covert operation in history was funded by the United States. It supplied the mujahideen with training and weapons, the most important being helicopter-killing Stinger missiles, that stopped the Soviets and the spread of communism. And no U.S. troops died.
In the ’80s, the U.S. had a clear enemy in the Soviets. As Mr. Wilson told Time back in 2007, “We were fighting the evil empire. It would have been like not supplying the Soviets against Hitler. Anyway, who the hell had ever heard of the Taliban then?”
Now we’re neck-deep in Obama’s war in Afghanistan, fighting an elusive enemy with a kid-gloves version of counterinsurgency. In Pashmul, The WSJ reports, a villager was wounded in the crossfire just after speaking with members of the U.S. Army. Hours later, while the villager was receiving treatment at the American base, troops found in his pocket a polished dog tag belonging to an American soldier killed three weeks earlier.
The weak counterinsurgency approach puts us at a clear disadvantage, much as the Stinger did to the Soviets. Soldiers shouldn’t say they’re so worried about hurting the population that they feel like they’re fighting with one arm tied behind their back. Lt. Mark Morrison, 24 years old, said, “It doesn’t matter if we get killed—we’re here to die. Our lives are not valuable enough to protect,” reported The WSJ.
I know from my studies that there are not enough troops on the ground, and not enough intelligence gathering being done to use this soft strategy effectively. And much of what I’ve heard the president talk about, and there’s been a lot of talk, is when we’ll be leaving. What’s clear is that this administration has a history of taking credit for the success of others as long as it helps them win an election.
E.J. Smith is Managing Director of Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. an investment advisory firm managing portfolios for investors with over $1,000,000 in investable assets.