George Will

Remember the reason given for that one? In March President Obama increased U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In September he said: "I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important." The election was indeed important.

Last Sunday, on "This Week," Valerie Jarrett, one of the president's confidants, was asked if Karzai's demolition of the process that was supposed to legitimize him will "cast a cloud over President Karzai and make it more difficult ... to implement (the president's) strategy." Jarrett replied:

"We don't think that it's going to add a complication to the strategy. ... We're going to work with the leader of the Afghan government and hopefully that's going to improve the state of conditions for the people in Afghanistan, and also help us as we try to bring this war to a close."

Hopefully? Talk about the audacity of hope. Jarrett perhaps signaled the goal that the president's strategy, which is a work in progress, is to serve -- bringing the war "to a close." Barack Obama has no intention of being a war president.

Already the annual cost of America's errand in Afghanistan is larger than that country's GDP. U.S. success depends on Afghans perceiving the central government as legitimate, which they will not do for at least five more years. Americans, led by a commander in chief whose heart is not in it, will not sustain the years of casualties and other costs necessary to create self-sufficient Afghan security forces beneath a corrupt regime.

On July 24, 2008, in Berlin, Obama stressed the need to "defeat the Taliban." Then, however, he spoke as a "citizen of the world," not as president. Now he is being presidential by reconsidering some implications of the politically calculated rhetoric that helped make him president. He is rightly ignoring those who cannot distinguish thinking from dithering.

President Woodrow Wilson, looking censoriously at some nations to America's south, reportedly vowed, "We will teach them to elect good men." Whatever strategy Obama adopts, its success cannot depend on America teaching Afghans to do that. If he is looking for a strategy that depends on legitimacy in Kabul, he is looking for a unicorn.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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