Cliff May

And does anyone seriously believe that, after leaving Iraq, we would not soon exit Afghanistan as well? How many suicide-bombings of police academies, market places and mosques would be required to get us out – slaughters that the major media will, as usual, blame not on the killers but on the “foreign occupation”?

If this is where members of Congress want to go, they ought to be honest about where it leads: al-Qaeda will still be waging a war against us, but we will no longer be waging much of a war against al-Qaeda.

To be sure, the war we’ve been fighting is not the war Americans signed up for when President Bush made the decision to enter Iraq four years ago. In the 20th century, international conflicts took the form of great European armies clashing. In the 21st century, Pentagon strategists thought conflicts would consist of short, decisive battles with small, well-trained American forces wielding high-tech weapons to produce “shock and awe” and break the enemies’ will to fight.

Our enemies had other plans. They decided to fight from the shadows -- kidnapping, torturing and mass-murdering whatever victims are at hand, relying on key groups in the West to blame the carnage not on them but on us, thereby eroding our will to fight.

Today’s wars, military analyst Tom Donnelly has written, are “like the frontier fighting of the 19th century -- in the American West but also in the far-flung outposts of the British Empire … the prime directive for U.S. land forces is neither deployability, nor mobility, nor lethality, but sustainability.”

And right now, sustainability appears to be the capability most lacking – not among America’s troops in the field but among the political classes in Washington. Almost a decade ago, Osama bin Laden said that Americans were “unprepared to fight long wars.” Secure in his Pakistani redoubt, he must be pleased that his analysis is proving so uncannily accurate.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.