Mar 19, 2013 0
From The GOP of Old by William Kristol in The Weekly Standard,
It was (well-deserved) war weariness after World War II that led to a precipitous drawdown in Europe that in turn helped make possible Stalin’s subjugation of Eastern Europe. It was understandable war weariness after Vietnam that produced the shameful abandonment of Vietnam and Cambodia and the subsequent disastrous weakness of the Carter administration. It was (somewhat inexplicable) war weariness after the Cold War that led to a conviction in the 1990s, as Haley Barbour put it just last week, trying to accommodate the Paulistas, that “We’re not the policeman of the world.”
And thus we had the failure to finish the job in Iraq in 1991, the retreat under fire from Somalia in late 1993, inaction in Rwanda in 1994, years of dithering before confronting Milosevic in the Balkans, passivity in the face of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and weak responses to al Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. embassies in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000. That decade of not policing the world ended with 9/11.
Now we’re weary again. And there are many politicians all too willing to seek power and popularity by encouraging weariness rather than point out its perils. Foremost among those politicians is our current president. It’s hard to blame the American people for some degree of war weariness when their president downplays threats and is eager to shirk international responsibilities. The rot of war weariness begins at the top. One can’t, for example, be surprised at the ebbing support of the American public for the war in Afghanistan years after the president stopped trying to mobilize their support, stopped heralding the successes of the troops he’d sent there, and stopped explaining the importance of their mission.
It fell to a freshman congressman, speaking at CPAC on the same day as Rand Paul, to tell some hard truths. “I know there is war weariness among the American people, just like there is war weariness among conservatives, and in this audience, no doubt,” said Tom Cotton from Yell County, Arkansas. “It’s no surprise, though, that the American people are war weary when their commander in chief is the weariest of them all.”
But, Cotton reminded his audience, “We’re fighting . . . a war against radical Islam and jihad.” He continued, “Our president often says 10 years of war are ending. Wars are not movies. They do not end. They are won or they are lost. The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.” And Cotton pointed out the obvious: “We have the manpower to win the war. We have the matériel to win the war. The question is, do we have the most essential element to combat power? Do we have the will to win the war? Our enemies certainly have that will. They question now whether we do.”
Americans are impatient and we like our wars on the cheap. While we should be slow to engage our troops in combat and we must be clear what the purpose is, we do great damage to our ability to prevent wars when we quit short of a measurable victory. Our enemy knows our Achilles heal and they wield that to their maximum advantage.