Another September 11th has come and gone, and another American general, God help him, is trying to fight a war despite a deeply divided home front. For the country has grown weary of this war. Weary, confused and divided.
Called home to defend his strategy, four-star Gen. David Petraeus faced not just some fair questions but the usual scathing attacks from the usual overheated quarters. (The lowest? A full-page ad in the New York Times headlined: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?")
American strategy has changed, but reports of progress are disputed. Rancor spreads. At home and abroad, the government's every move is challenged in the media, in the courts, in the minds and hearts of the American people.
The leader of the opposition in the U.S. Senate declared this war lost months ago. And even before this commander testified before the House Armed Services Committee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had pronounced him "dead flat wrong." Divided we flail - at each other.
The next presidential campaign is already under way more than a year ahead of election day, and a president's approval ratings haven't been this low since another feisty commander-in-chief seemed determined to persist in an unpopular war on the Korean peninsula.
Officially, that conflict wasn't even a war but a "police action." Unofficially, it was called Truman's War, and it, too, was declared lost, or at least stalemated, but certainly dead flat wrong. The wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place. At one point the American commander in the field was replaced, but the war continued - a constant drain on American resources and a steady sacrifice of American blood.
Sometimes you hear today's war on terror referred to as the so-called War on Terror, its very name disputed. Words of resolve and courage have given way to uncertainty, recriminations and just plain war-weariness. The casualty figures mount and the military funerals go on.
There is no aspect of this war, whether it's being waged in Iraq or Afghanistan or around the world, in airports or through intelligence operations, that has not come under criticism, yet no clear alternative to victory has emerged.
Yes, we were warned this would be another long, twilight struggle akin to the Cold War, and that this war would be different from any other the country has waged: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success." -George W. Bush, September 20, 2001.
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