As the burlesque of the U.N. General Assembly and the likely futility of "negotiating" with defiant theocratic Iran recede into the dustbin of history, two challenges are coming to a head that will define the Obama legacy on the world stage. Obama's direction of the Afghanistan war prefigures how our country will meet the Iranian menace.
Afghanistan: A War of Necessity?
Remember that Candidate Obama proclaimed Afghanistan as a "necessary" war in counterpoint to our "wrong" war in Iraq. He was right about Afghanistan for reasons including that Osama Bin Laden is still hatching lethal plots there and Taliban victory could destabilize nuclear giant Pakistan. Many of us skeptics believed Obama's endorsement of the Afghanistan mission was only campaign bluster to "prove" he had the metal mettle to be Commander in Chief. Were we right? Can even Obama's admirers say he has acted like a President whose military is at war -- with mounting casualties -- in Afghanistan? The answer is sadly revealing.
In an era when network journalists were not bootlicking flacks, Edward R. Murrow said Winston Churchill had mobilized the English language and sent it to war. Can anyone say that President Obama has employed his oratorical skills (his "gift," as he unashamedly told the lugubrious Harry Reid) to match what our volunteer troops face day and night in Afghanistan? If the President does not rally the nation (remember FDR's "day which will live in infamy"?), it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that public support for the mission will decline.
To War or Not to War
The President seems immersed in a Hamlet-like soliloquy about whether the Afghanistan War should be or not be. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO-U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, now advises that the war will be lost unless he is given 40,000 more troops. To be sure, it is not the President's job to rubber-stamp military requests.
Several factors raise apprehension among those of us who believe that 9/11 must not go unpunished and that reprises must be prevented. First, President Obama has not reiterated that Afghanistan presents a war "of necessity." Second, Senator Obama wrongly opposed the surge which produced victory in Iraq. Third, all the President's apologies to our NATO allies failed to gain even one additional combat soldier for Afghanistan. Fourth, the President needs the left-wing of the Democratic Party -- always eager to surrender to foreign adversaries -- for his domestic agenda. Last (for now), of all Obama's suppressed college and law school writings, the only one surfaced during his Presidency is a Columbia University (naturally!) article published in the N.Y. Times (naturally!) showing that Obama is opposed to use of military force.
An Appalling Public Case of Nerves
Obama is thus undergoing what former State Department official Eliot Cohen called in the Wall Street Journal "an appalling public case of nerves over the war." If Obama is unable to commit to employing recommended force to win in Afghanistan, how can one think that Iran will be "engaged" into abandoning its vast nuclear arms program? That President Obama waited for months, to the dismay even of our NATO allies, to reveal the existence of the hidden Iranian nuclear facility heightens skepticism about his willingness, in the end, to use force to resist demonstrable threats to our country and indeed to civilization itself.
Increasingly, it is heard from well-placed Arabs that a conventional strike against Iran by Israel or the U.S. -- with all accompanying consequences -- is preferable to granting a nuclear Iran regional hegemony and control over global prices of oil. If roadside bombers hiding in caves can defeat the U.S., Iran will know it need not fear Obama. The President may have to do more than proclaim "all options remain on the table." Obama may find persuading Iran even more daunting than persuading the International Olympic Committee.