Monday, June 16, 2008

How the Good War Will Become Bad

If we are not fighting in Iraq, I've long held, the so-called "good war" in Afghanistan will become bad in the views of our anti-war side. Now the anti-war side protests Iraq and claims that they oppose Iraq in order to commit resources to the "real" fight in Afghanistan.

Europeans, already uncomfortable with the war in Afghanistan despite triggering the NATO collective defense provisions to help us, will increasingly turn on the Afghanistan campaign as they are prodded to commit more resources:

Britain's new deployment of about 230 engineers, logistical staff and military trainers to Afghanistan will boost the number of British forces in the country to more than 8,000, most based in Helmand province in the south.

As these forces take casualties, the European home front will actively turn on the war. (As an aside, kudos to the Canadians for holding firm despite losses.) And our Left, which loves the European pacifist view, will be emboldened to tack to opposing the Afghanistan War.

And when the Taliban carry out media operations by loudly proclaiming captures that will be quietly reversed when we counter-attack, the cries of we're doomed to lose Afghanistan will rise, unmuffled by the until-now louder anti-Iraq War cries of doom:

Hundreds of Taliban fighters took over several villages in southern Afghanistan on Monday just outside the region's largest city, and NATO and Afghan forces were redeploying to meet the threat, officials said.

The enemy has done this before. They mass and ride into a remote town, driving out the small police force. The press is notified which runs "the sky is falling" stories for a couple days. Then American, NATO, or Afghan troops and aircraft arrive to drive away or kill the Taliban gunmen. Thus ends the Taliban offensive. They are, in fact, just media operations.

These media operations support our Left's refrain for the last several years that we are on the verge of losing in Afghanistan. An American officer who led ISAF in Afghanistan comments on this talking point of our Left:

When I came in we had a force -- 36, 37 nations and an aggregate number of troops that was about 36,000. When I left, we were up to 40 nations declared. There are actually a few more that don't really advertise they're there, but there's a few more than 40. NATO recognizes 40. And the figure was a lot closer to 52,000.

And I bring that point up just to remind all that much of the reports about Afghanistan in late 2006, 2007 had to do with the alliance will fracture, the alliance is frayed and the alliance cannot get this job done. And in fact, that has proven not to be the case. The alliance is a far more capable force and, certainly in aggregate numbers, far more bigger than it was when we first took over last year.

The news also at that time had the Taliban as a resurgent force, as the force on the battlefield. They were coming with a spring offensive, which did not pan out. Then next, they were coming with a summer offensive in '07 which did not pan out, then an Eid offensive, then a Ramadan offensive, then a winter offensive and all. It simply didn't happen. And I believe that's a statement that the combination of the international force, the OEF forces along with their Afghan brothers are indeed the credible force on the battlefield today.

It was all imminent defeat, all the time, for our Left. And yet we've smashed up the Taliban time and again. Still, remember that complaints about Afghanistan were always about providing an excuse to abandon Iraq. It was never about winning in Afghanistan.

So our Left is already primed to run from Afghanistan when they can get away with it. The shift to opposing the Afghanistan War can't really take place in our Left until the Iraq War is won. Once that happens, the louder noise of the war in Iraq smothers the Left's complaints of failure in Afghanistan. And our Left will get that Iraq War victory, as evidenced by the main metric that has been used to track winning and losing is going our way:

Signs are emerging that Iraq has reached a turning point. Violence is down, armed extremists are in disarray, government confidence is rising and sectarian communities are gearing up for a battle at the polls rather than slaughter in the streets.

It isn't just casualties. The Economist, while taking the usual jab at mythical "blunders" in the war, recognizes that we are winning in Iraq:

AFTER all the blood and blunders, people are right to be sceptical when good news is announced from Iraq. Yet it is now plain that over the past several months, while Americans have been distracted by their presidential primaries, many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right.

With Iraq doing better and the Afghanistan campaign still raging, we will see more of these months:

Last month, for the first time, more coalition forces were killed in Afghanistan than were killed in Iraq. And just since we have gathered here in Brussels, three more coalition soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. It's important that we live up to our pledges, in both civilian and military spheres, necessary for success in Afghanistan.

When these months become routine, the hand off will take place. Our Left is anti-war. They are most comfortable when our military loses. They are only pro-Afghanistan War because they need a crutch to support their efforts to lose the Iraq War. It would look bad to the majority of Americans who like victory if the Left was openly against both wars, since that would merely make our Left appear as defeatists rather than wise stewards of our security who want to cut our losses in the doomed distraction from the real war in Afghanistan.

I'm not sure who they think they are fooling by making this claim. Indeed, for a while last year, when our Left felt that they would soon succeed in losing the war in Iraq, they thought the Afghanistan War was about to become the only war they had to oppose. Then, in those heady days when Congress led the flight to the rear, some on the Left started making premature noises against the Afghanistan War:

When they won control of Congress in November, Democrats pressed their case to withdraw troops from Iraq and refocus on Afghanistan, but some are growing impatient with U.S. operations in Afghanistan as well.

A few congressional Democrats go so far as suggesting that the Pentagon should pull out of Afghanistan now, while others say that troop withdrawal will be addressed after the military is out of Iraq.

But for the purpose of judging Afghanistan, winning or losing Iraq is irrelevant. It is only relevant that the Iraq War end, and then our Left will feel compelled to oppose the fight in Afghanistan. Like they did in the opening weeks of the war in 2001 when we were doomed, had to declare a Ramadan truce, and were urged to let the UN try Osama bin Laden. Remember when they toted up reports of Afghanistan casualties and tried to argue our war had to end when Afghan casualties matched our 9/11 deaths? As if Operation Enduring Freedom was about biblical retribution and not self defense. That was our Left in action before Afghanistan became the good war on March 19, 2003.

You wait, when the Iraq War is won, our Left will be opposed to the only war we've got--the "good war" in Afghanistan. Our Left can never find a war they can support. But that's a statement about them and not our wars.