Today's column is for all hawkish Americans currently wrestling with looming doubts about the pointlessness of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and clubbing those doubts down with the much-mentioned perils of leaving Afghanistan to "the terrorists." In short, it's about how to "lose" Afghanistan and win the war.
And what war would that be? Since 9/11, the answer to this question has eluded our leaders, civilian and military, but it remains the missing link to a cogent U.S. foreign policy.
It is not, as our presidents vaguely invoke, a war against "terrorism," "radicalism" or "extremism"; and it is not, as the current hearts-and-minds-obsessed Afghanistan commander calls it, "a struggle to gain the support of the (Afghan) people." It is something more specific than presidents describe, and it is something larger than the outlines of Iraq or Afghanistan. The war that has fallen to our generation is to halt the spread of Islamic law (Sharia) in the West, whether driven by the explosive belts of violent jihad, the morality-laundering of petro-dollars or decisive demographic shifts.
This mission demands a new line of battle around the West itself, one supported by a multilevel strategy in which the purpose of military action is not to nation-build in the Islamic world, but to nation-save in the Western one. Secure the borders, for starters, something "war president" George W. Bush should have done but never did. Eliminate the nuclear capabilities of jihadist nations such as Iran, another thing George W. Bush should have done but never did -- Pakistan's, too. Destroy jihadist actors, camps and havens wherever and whenever needed (the strategy in place and never executed by Bill Clinton in the run-up to 9/11). But not by basing, supplying and supporting a military colossus in Islamic, landlocked Central Asia. It is time, as Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (USA ret.) first told me last April, to "let Afghanistan go." It is not in our interests to civilize it.