With the end of combat in Operation Enduring Freedom presidentially certified, all eyes rivet toward Afghanistan. This is the fight President Obama, when campaigning for office, called our "war of necessity." This is the theater of conflict where Obama, when debating Sen. McCain barely two years ago, promised us victory ending with the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden. Ironically, Afghanistan may also be the only war in American history with a presidential expiration date.
In his recent book, "The Promise: President Obama, Year One," journalist and Obama hagiographer Jonathan Alter gives us unique insight into the setting of the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
As Alter recounts the pivotal meeting, Defense Secretary Gates, Gen. David H. Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen and other Pentagon brass were convened at the White House to hear Commander in Chief Obama's decision on the Afghan War strategy. Vice President Joe Biden accompanied Obama to the meeting.
On their way to the conference room, Biden asked Obama whether the 18-month deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces was a target date or a firm promise. According to Alter, Obama not only responded that it was a promise, but the president subsequently went on to press General Petraeus to commit to finishing the job in Afghanistan within the 18-month deadline.
This revelation is significant because it confirms what many have suspected -- that the commander in chief's withdrawal deadline is political in nature. Having made opposition to the Iraq War a centerpiece of his campaign, Obama did not want a lingering war in Afghanistan to become his own political Achilles' heel. Political, not military, objectives dictated the president's decision to set the 18-month deadline in Afghanistan.
Leaders are entitled to, and indeed must, make political calculations during wartime. War leadership has always, and will forever, include politics. But these decisions should be strategic, not tactical. A strategic political calculation is one that advances the war effort.
The corollary of Clausewitz's quip that war is an extension of politics is that without political support, armies collapse.
Offensives may be launched or delayed based on political considerations. Such considerations are as old as the Republic. The toll on morale taken by the terrible winter at Valley Forge and eroding support in the Continental Congress were considerations in Gen. Washington's decision to risk a Christmas crossing of the Delaware River to attack Hessian mercenaries.
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.
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