Saturday, November 7, 2009

Obama’s Nobel Decision

At the end of “Saving Private Ryan”, mortally-wounded captain John Miller, leader of a squad dispatched to collect a soldier whose three brothers have been in killed World War II combat, utters to his rescued charge with his dying breath, "James... earn this. Earn it."

President Obama, nominated a scant 11 days into his presidency for a Nobel Peace Prize that he clearly did not deserve, faces a far weightier matter than that of Mrs. Ryan’s surviving son, who 50 years later ponders whether or not he has been worthy of the sacrifice of Miller and the others who died while fetching him.

American involvement in what Obama called a “necessary war” in Afghanistan ultimately hinges upon how his administration decides what constitutes a victory in what is clearly an unmitigated mess.

Call me naïve but my idea of a military success involves a desk arrayed with papers and pens, a man dressed in crisp khakis and a big grey boat. That notion apparently has been supplanted by retired general Wesley Clark the former top NATO commander, who over the summer offered a hallucinatory assessment of the Afghan war, saying, “It's theoretically possible to achieve success. The question is how you define it.”

Propping up a corrupt government with a cipher of a leader whose main attribute appears to be the ability to sport an über-snazzy chapeau and flowing robes is not in the interest of American “national security” nor worth one additional drop of American blood; especially given how, by agreeing to a runoff, Afghan President Hamid Karzai tacitly admitted that August’s presidential election was fraudulent. Plus, an adversary willing to suicide bomb the dedication of a mosque – as was done in September when the country’s deputy intelligence chief and 23 others were slaughtered – is an enemy that cannot be defeated with military might.

In the absence of what General William Westmoreland, U.S. forces commander in Vietnam, termed the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel," President Obama would be wise (and courageous) to bring the 63,000 troops already in Afghanistan home immediately – even at the risk of having to return later. The current course of action is not the ballyhooed “change” he articulated during the campaign and that the American people voted for.

Or, unlike the elderly James Ryan, he’ll be staring at a lot more than one tombstone and wondering the same about his prematurely-bestowed award.

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