Debra J. Saunders
President Barack Obama was entitled to a victory lap. In August 2007, then-Sen. Obama stuck out his neck when he said that there were terrorists holed up in the mountains of Pakistan and that he was willing to do something about it.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and (Pakistani) President (Pervez) Musharraf will not act, we will," Obama asserted.

Hillary Clinton, Obama's rival Democrat at the time, was aghast that he would talk about encroaching on an ally. Later, John McCain, then the Republican candidate for president, scolded Obama for telegraphing his intentions. Both Clinton and McCain had legitimate points about not antagonizing a putative ally, but Obama had a better point about doing what needs to be done to achieve a military goal.

A year ago, Obama made good on his campaign talk. He authorized a mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, and it worked. So he earned the right to crow a little.

Last week, the president flew to Kabul to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The details are not known, but every American can hope that the pact will reduce the sacrifices demanded of troops stationed at Bagram Air Field and elsewhere.

As I watched Obama speaking from Kabul Tuesday, I was struck by how much easier it is politically for a president to wage war when the other party isn't trying to hobble the president's efforts.

It was not always so. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Obama voiced the then popular belief among the left that President George W. Bush's decision to target Saddam Hussein in Iraq had presented a distraction that robbed America of a quick and sure turnabout in the Afghanistan theater. "I will end this war in Iraq responsibly," Obama declared, "and finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan."

The fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban, of course, is not finished; that's not Obama's fault but a function of an unremitting enemy that melts into the landscape.

The president warned that bloodshed will continue and that it will be ugly. The Pentagon reported in April, "The insurgency remains a resilient and determined enemy and will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence this spring and summer through assassinations, intimidation, high-profile attacks and the emplacement of improvised explosive devices."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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