…When the world’s expert on this type of counterterrorism warfare recommends precisely the opposite strategy — “counterinsurgency,” meaning a heavy-footprint, population-protecting troop surge — you have the most convincing of cases against counterterrorism by the man who most knows its potential and its limits. And McChrystal was emphatic in his recommendation: To go any other way than counterinsurgency would lose the war.
Yet his commander in chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes. His domestic advisers, led by Rahm Emanuel, tell him if he goes for victory, he’ll become LBJ, the domestic visionary destroyed by a foreign war. His vice president holds out the chimera of painless counterterrorism success…
There is a great deal of truth in that, especially as it relates to the sort of political advice Obama is getting. Given that Obama’s military knowledge is nil and his knowledge of Vietnam colored by the tenured radicals who educated him, Obama may find that the leftist advice he’s getting makes sense. To Obama, the story that LBJ was undone by war makes sense – but while LBJ was undone by Vietnam, he wasn’t undone for the reasons liberal think. To liberals – and thus to Obama – it was war, in and of itself, which doomed LBJ. The truth of the matter is quite different – it was failure to win the war which doomed LBJ.
For all the talk of the anti-war movement’s effect on the 1968 election, the fact of the matter is that all three major candidates (Nixon, Humphry, Wallace) were pledged to victory in Vietnam, by one means or another. The overtly anti-war candidates (Romney for the GOP, McCarthy for the Democrats) were trounced by their respective party nominees – neither of them ever really had a chance of being nominated. While it was anti-war McCarthy’s strong showing in New Hampshire which convinced Johnson to back out, the fact that Johnson’s pro-victory Vice President won the nomination indicates that the vote was more anti-Johnson than anti-war. Had Johnson secured victory – or at least seemed to be fighting for victory – then he probably would have been easily re-nominated, and almost certainly re-elected. Obama is drawing the wrong lesson – he needs to learn that he should fight to win, but what he’s getting is “don’t fight/don’t lose” – the very same advice which lost us Vietnam, and lost Johnson the Presidency.
Again and again I go back to the refrain – MacArthur’s “in war, there is no substitute for victory.” I keep saying it because it is absolutely true. A hard war doesn’t cause trouble; a long war doesn’t cause trouble – a war which is being lost causes trouble…and in a democracy, anything short of “clearly winning” translates in the public mind as “lost”. More than ever, what Obama needs is advice to keep fighting – to send the requested troops, to often visit the troops (here and in Afghanistan), to repeatedly state that victory is the goal. To nutshell it, Obama needs to become exactly like President Bush…clear, convincing and unflagging. If Obama does that, he’ll have a victorious war to his credit in 2012 – if Obama takes the advice he’s currently getting, he’ll have a lost war or a long, drawn out blood bath to his discredit in 2012. Fight and win, or wimp out and lose – and not just for himself, but for America and the world.