At the CNBC town hall meeting, President Obama responded appropriately to a supporter who mentioned, in passing, that his son had just been commissioned as a U.S. army officer. Before turning to the questioner's principal query, the president made it a point to thank the man's son for "his service to our country."
So he should. So should we all. But if the account in Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars," is correct, the president is asking all of our soldiers to fight for a war he is frantic to "exit."
Throughout the protracted 2009 "strategy review," the Woodward book reports, Obama "repeatedly press(ed) his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him."
At last, the president crafted his own withdrawal plan. "This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan ... Everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room."
No wonder the president returned the bust of Winston Churchill to the British when he assumed office. No "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" for this leader. No talk of fighting "on the beaches ... on the landing grounds ... in the fields and in the streets." No, we're all about exit strategies.
There is no shame in declining to fight a war you believe to be misguided or futile. Obama preens about having opposed the war in Iraq ab initio. He may have been right or wrong about that. But it was a perfectly honorable position to take. What is not honorable is sending men and women into battle when you neither seek nor expect victory.
Throughout the 2008 campaign, the president insisted that, while the Iraq War was a tragedy and a disgrace, the war in Afghanistan was necessary, right, and neglected. At a candidate's forum during the primaries, he said, "One of the things that I think is critical, as the next president, is to make absolutely certain that we not only phase out the Iraq War but we also focus on the critical battle that we have in Afghanistan and root out al-Qaida." The war in Iraq, Obama continued, "is an enormous distraction from the battle that does have to be waged in Afghanistan."
In a foreign policy address, then-Sen. Obama noted that terrorists moved freely between the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. "There are tribes there that see borders as nothing more than lines on a map, and governments as forces that come and go. There are blood ties deeper than alliances of convenience, and pockets of extremism that follow religion to violence. It is a tough place. But that is no excuse ... We cannot fail to act just because action is hard."