PIERRE, S.D. -- It's already the front edge of winter in America's Great Plains. Here, where the air is clear and crisp, there is a passion for walking behind a good dog while hunting pheasants, and a good "alibi" for missing a fast-flying bird is an art form.
"It was too low for a good shot" or "I didn't want to hit the dog" will get the taleteller extra credit for "prudence" -- once or twice. But if creative excuses exceed the number of birds brought home for dinner, a hunter soon loses the respect of his peers. Even the dogs recognize someone who is better at spinning yarns than bagging game.
That's President Barack Obama's problem with the fight in Afghanistan. He hasn't been willing or able to pull the trigger on a decision about what to do, and now he's running out of alibis.
During his quest for the presidency, Mr. Obama repeatedly referred to the campaign against the remnants of al-Qaida and the Taliban as the "central front in the war on terror" and Afghanistan as "the necessary war." In July 2008, he pledged: "I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan and use this commitment to seek greater contributions -- with fewer restrictions -- from NATO allies. I will focus on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary. I will once and for all dismantle al-Qaida and the Taliban." All these things still need to be done. But they haven't been. Instead, all we have are excuses.
By the time Mr. Obama made his March 27 decision to increase the "U.S. troop ceiling" in Afghanistan to 68,000, Taliban insurgents were flooding into the country from safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. In May, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the president's hand-picked field commander, was dispatched to Afghanistan to implement the O-Team's previously announced "counterinsurgency strategy." Though the previously authorized U.S. force levels had yet to be achieved, we were told subsequently by the White House that there would be no further increases in American force levels until Gen. McChrystal completed a "detailed assessment of the situation."
On Aug. 20, in the midst of a dramatic spike in U.S. and allied casualties and widespread Taliban threats of reprisals against those who went to the polls, Afghanistan held a nationwide election for president -- only the second such vote in history. Ten days later, while Washington dithered over reports of ballot fraud in the Afghan election, Gen. McChrystal submitted his 66-page "assessment."
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.