Right to the Point (12/10/09)

Afghanistan in a neoisolationist world

Dec. 10, 2009

By Mike Benevento

This past Monday, Americans quietly celebrated the 68th anniversary of the infamous Japanese attack on U.S. military installations on Oahu, Hawaii. On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was suddenly attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The early Sunday morning sneak attack killed almost 2,400 people and left the Pacific fleet (except for the carriers) nearly in shambles. The attack on Pearl Harbor abruptly awoke a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve to win.

The next day, at President Franklin Roosevelt’s request, Congress declared war against Japan. An isolationist United States had reluctantly joined World War II as a participant.

For nearly four years, the U.S. fought a total war — making all the necessary sacrifices and doing whatever it took to win the enemy’s unconditional surrender. This included fighting on two massive fronts, providing our allies economic and military assistance and paying a high price in blood, sweat and tears.

It was a no holds barred contest — including total support and effort on the home front and the firebombing of German and Japanese cities. Only after America used the ultimate weapon — the atomic bomb — did Japan surrender and peace was restored.

Nearly 60 years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, an enemy seeking the destruction of our great country and way of life attacked the United States. The sneak attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and over Pennsylvania took the lives of almost 3,000 innocent people and united all Americans to defend the nation.

Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist organization, supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan, carried out the 9/11 attacks. Led by President George Bush, the United States and our allies took action to disrupt terrorist networks and destroy Al Qaeda throughout the world.

In what President Barack Obama describes as a war of necessity, NATO forces went to battle in Afghanistan. Acting out of self-defense, they have fought Al Qaeda and the Taliban in that country and neighboring Pakistan ever since. With the Democrats controlling power in Washington, America is at an important crossroads in Afghanistan.

Summing up Obama’s current foreign policy, former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said, “The Obama administration is pursuing a policy that can accurately be described as neoisolationist — a policy characterized by unwillingness to be assertive in the world in defense of America’s interests and those of our friends and allies.”

President Obama has done away with the War on Terror. His administration decided to stop treating prisoners caught on the battlefield as enemy combatants and bestowed upon them rights previously reserved only for U.S. citizens. Combat against Americans and terrorism have been redefined as criminal acts. Military prisons such as at Guantanamo Bay are being closed post-haste.

Earlier this month, in a speech at West Point, President Obama outlined his strategy for Afghanistan. It involves a temporary surge of up to 30,000 troops to secure the country and train Afghan security forces, increasing civilian support and a firm withdrawal starting July 2011. The president’s plan is a compromise between beating feet right away and staying the course in order to complete the job.

Liberal elitists who view America as the bad guy heavily influence Obama’s Democratic Party. This blame-America club seeks little more than immediate hasty retreats across the globe back to the mainland and a return to pre-World War II isolationism.

These people don’t want to do what it really takes to defeat the enemy. They simply want to get out of there as fast as possible. Bring all troops home ASAP. Situation on the ground be damned. Winning the peace is secondary.

The Obama administration has somewhat placated this group by announcing its timeline for withdrawal while the countryside is still not secure. Even still, Obama’s choice to deploy more forces than President Bush did and remain in Afghanistan for a few more years to train its security forces greatly disappoints them.

In contrast, most Americans want to stop terrorism and seek victory in Afghanistan. While Obama’s decision telegraphs our withdrawal, there is some hope that NATO can accomplish the dual tasks of helping the people of Afghanistan be self-sufficient and ridding the country of Al Qaeda. Right now, a surge and planned exit are the only things Obama will allow toward achieving these two goals.

No unconditional surrender. No more enemy combatants — only criminals. A firm timeline for withdrawal. This is the Afghanistan 1,500 Vermont National Guard soldiers will find when they deploy there in March. It isn’t pretty.


Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.