WASHINGTON -- The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, in Twentynine Palms, Calif., is a dusty, windswept installation high in the Mojave Desert. It is the world's largest U.S. Marine base, even though it is more than 150 miles from blue water. Perhaps that is appropriate, because this is the place where Marine units prepare for deployment to Afghanistan, which is more than 250 miles from blue water.
Twentynine Palms -- yes, that's how they spell it -- is also "home" to, among others, the legendary 7th Marine Regiment. Last summer, our Fox News documentary team was embedded with the 2nd Battalion of this celebrated unit in the shadow of the Hindu Kush. This week, I spent time with them as they remembered their fallen comrades and prepared for another deployment. Though they aren't allowed to say where they are heading, it's very likely to be back to Afghanistan.
Late last week, Gen. James Conway, the Marine commandant, suggested that as many as 20,000 U.S. Marines could be committed to the campaign in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden went to the Pentagon for a getting-to-know-you gathering with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nothing that leaked out of this off-the-record meet and greet disputed the proposal that the Marines be phased out of Iraq and sent to battle the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The timing for such a move would seem to be right. This week, millions of Iraqis lined up to dip their fingers in purple ink and cast ballots in the first free and fair provincial elections in the history of Mesopotamia. Not only were half the voters women but also, among the candidates vying for 450 seats in the assemblies of 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, more than 200 were women. Had radical Islamists -- whether they'd been Sunni or Shiite -- had their way, none of this ever would have occurred. Importantly, it happened only because young American soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines persevered in Iraq.
Failing to declare this election a major victory in the war being waged against us by radical Islam is a mistake. Mr. Obama could have mentioned the Iraqi elections in his "first formal television interview" -- given Monday to Hisham Melhem of the Saudi-owned, United Arab Emirates-based Al-Arabiya satellite network. Regrettably, he never mentioned it.
Instead, he talked about "communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest." He also responded to his interlocutor in ways that denigrated his predecessors, including by expressing his desire "to listen (and to) set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years."
During the interview, Mr. Obama also spoke wistfully of the "respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago" and added, "There's no reason why we can't restore that."
Some will say it isn't fair to make our new commander in chief stick to the facts. That's the trouble with television interviews. They are on tape and stay around for years. If you are going to do them, it helps to know the facts. Let's see, 30 years ago -- 1979 -- the year that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran, the "Islamic Revolution" was proclaimed, the U.S. was first described as "the Great Satan," our embassy in Tehran, Iran, was sacked, and 53 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. That's probably not the kind of "respect" Mr. Obama had in mind.
How about 20 years ago -- 1989? While investigators still were combing the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi sent MiG-23s to attack a U.S. Navy carrier battle group in the Mediterranean Sea. Final score: U.S. Navy 2, Libya 0. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie. Islamic radicals murdered the president of Lebanon, and Saddam Hussein issued mobilization orders in preparation for invading Kuwait the following August. Some "partnership."
Unfortunately, the Al-Arabiya interview isn't the only troubling talk coming from the Obama administration that could well leave members of our all-volunteer force wondering just what is expected of them. In congressional testimony this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that even though Afghanistan is the new commander in chief's "top priority," we also "ought to keep our objectives realistic and limited in Afghanistan."
I have spent my life in and around our military. Everyone I ever have known in our armed forces has believed in "realistic" missions and goals. But I've yet to meet a man or woman in uniform who is willing to sacrifice all for "respect," a "partnership" or a "limited objective."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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