President Obama isn’t sure if victory is the U.S. objective in Afghanistan. On July 23, ABC’s Terry Moran asked the president to define victory in Afghanistan. He responded, “I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” Fidelity to history requires us to note that Emperor Hirohito did not sign the Japanese articles of surrender on the Battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, and was not even at the ceremony.Historical accuracy aside, Mr. Obama was trying to reiterate part of what George W. Bush said on many occasions during his presidency: The war on terrorism is not a conventional war, and it will not be won by conventional military means. When President Bush made this point in an August 2004 interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, he was excoriated by Democrats, who accused the president of defeatism. Perhaps those same critics would be interested in weighing in this time, too.
There is scant difference between the Bush and Obama strategies in Afghanistan. The “stronger and smarter” approach Mr. Obama introduced in March is substantively little different from the Bush administration’s 2004 Afghan counterinsurgency strategy. Both seek to secure the country, promote a stable government and defeat the terrorists who seek to attack the United States. However, one important difference is that the Obama administration generally eschews the word “war.” Defense jargon du jour indicates that our country has shifted from “fighting a war” to “engaging in overseas contingencies.” This renders the whole question of victory moot. Wars are won or lost; contingency operations just come and go.
He doesn’t like the word victory. Not even against Islamist terrorists?
Read also Pulling out of Iraq.