Tony Blankley

The president went on in his West Point speech to explain why he was not endorsing the calls of others for "a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort": "I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost and what we need to achieve to secure our interests."

So even though "our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan," we must make do without goals that are "beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost."

Note that the reason the president said he is increasing our troop strength is to "deny al-Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government." Yet because we don't have sufficient troops, our strategy is merely to hold larger cities and towns, do what we can to build up the Afghan army and government, and start leaving in 18 months -- inevitably al-Qaida will continue to have "safe haven" in much of the countryside bordering Pakistan -- even if we succeed wherever we try to regain control.

Along with that critical strategic shortcoming of our new Afghanistan/Pakistan policy, critics of the president's escalation point out that al-Qaida easily can find safe haven in Yemen, as well as Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa. (The jungles of South America and Central America could be added to that list, as could parts of the dense cities of Hamburg, London, Paris, Rotterdam and Falls Church, Va.) But because we clearly don't have enough troops to gain control of those other areas, the administration and its Republican defenders largely ignore that gibe.

The failure of the war advocates to match up their correct description of the danger from radical Islamic terror violence with the U.S. troop strength needed to hold it back is what gives an unrealistic, almost insincere, air to the entire debate.

On Dec. 8, 1941, when the United States declared war on Japan, the U.S. Army's strength was about 1.6 million. The Navy level was about 330,000. But President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not limit his strategy to what his generals could do with those soldier and sailor levels. FDR designed a strategy for victory -- and back-engineered the necessary troop levels. By December 1942, the Army was up to about 5.4 million. By the spring of 1945, it was more than 8 million, and the Navy had more than 4 million men (out of a total U.S. population of 139 million). Victory can come at that high a price.

But neither former President George W. Bush nor President Obama (nor, I'm sure, the American public) would consider, for example, a draft (as I advocated in my most recent book, "American Grit") to increase our fighting capacity. That level of sacrifice, necessary to gain safety from the still-gathering threat of radical Islam, is beyond current American sensibilities.

So United States governments (both Republican and Democratic) propose half-measures -- and receive only half-support. People reasonably ask themselves why we should sacrifice life and treasure for a plan that won't even work.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

©Creators Syndicate