March 8, 2009

Obama's outreach to the Taliban - a victory for the terrorists

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In an interview with the New York Times, President Obama said that he was considering reaching out to "moderate" elements of the Taliban.

While I support the President's efforts to examine all possible strategies and tactics to win the war in Afghanistan, he really needs to hire some better advisors on how to accomplish things in this part of the world. These remarks are reminiscent of his initial public comments about overtures to Iran - highlighting his naïveté in things beyond Chicago politics. (See my earlier article, Obama and Iran - naïveté and the real world.)

First and foremost, he needs to commit to "winning" the war, not "ending" the war. As in Iraq, the President seems to have trouble mouthing the word "win" when it comes to America's battles. The kumbaya theory of politics is that we can all get along and diplomacy can solve everything, but at some point nations must deploy their armed forces into harm's way to defend their interests.

When that point is reached, when America must expend her most valuable resource - the blood of her sons and daughters - the Commander in Chief should employ leadership, not rhetoric. Saying we are not winning the war demoralizes American troops. Mr. President, you're the Commander in Chief - start talking like it and pretty soon you just might find yourself acting like it. You should be telling the Taliban that we are going to destroy them, not "reach out" to them. Of course, since you have closed Guantanamo, they'll probably surrender and "lawyer up."

Public disclosures that you want to talk to the Taliban gives them a moral victory. You might think such moves make the United States - and you - look strong, but in this part of the world, it has the exact opposite effect. They perceive that they now have the upper hand and you are coming to them to seek their benevolence, their mercy. You are gaining the reputation of being an appeaser, not the leader of the free world.

Now, back to some specifics. The Taliban are not Afghan nor Pakistani - these are artificial nationalities created by outside powers - they are Pushtuns. The venue is merely an address - ethnicity trumps that. Members of the Taliban join the organization because they are committed Islamists - "moderates" do not seek to be part of the Taliban.

The situation in Afghanistan is vastly different from what we faced in Iraq - conversely, the opportunities are not the same. In Iraq, we were able to convince members of the Iraqi insurgency to turn on the al-Qa'idah in Mesopotamia, or AQI, organization. Members of AQI were mostly foreigners trying to impose their will on the local population - the Taliban in Afghanistan are part of the local population.

So, President Obama, you want to reach out to the "moderates" in the Taliban. Assuming that they exist - and I do not - what are you going to offer them? A few provinces in Afghanistan where they can implement shari'a law, where girls are refused an education, where any dissent is not tolerated? Perhaps you'll offer control of the local poppy crop and opium trade?

You said in the interview that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated. Not really.

There are bad guys
who want to impose an archaic form of Islam on a population who does not want it, a group allied with a terrorist organization who has killed over 3,000 Americans, a group of true believers who thus far will not negotiate.

Mr. President, you are the Commander in Chief of the most powerful, best-trained and best-equipped armed forces on the planet. The America people paid for this capability - use it. The Taliban are our enemy - you cannot negotiate with them, they are true believers in a bastardized concept of religion.

Order our troops to hunt them down and kill them.