It is not a good sign when America’s allies have to make the argument for a sustained commitment to a conflict that this country began. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today delivered what may be the best speech of his life, given in honor of his country’s soldiers who had sacrificed their lives fighting in Afghanistan.
Brown made the connection between the conflict in Afghanistan, and the security of his people (and ours). Simply put this is a matter of “fighting there, so that we are safer at home.” Most important, he devastated the argument gaining credence in the United States and voiced by Vice President Biden, that we can avoid the challenge of the Taliban and just go after Al Qaeda. It is not possible, he argued, to prosecute a selective campaign against Al Qaeda.
First, it is now impossible to separate the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which collaborate and operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions. “But when the main terrorist threat facing Britain emanates from Afghanistan and Pakistan; and when . . . we know that they continue to train and plot attacks on Britain from the region — this mission must not fail.” Second, the failure to defeat the Taliban will inevitably lead to a stronger Al Qaeda. “If the Taliban insurgency succeeds in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will once again cross the border and re-establish themselves in sanctuaries in Afghanistan from where they will plan, train and launch attacks on the rest of the world.”
What does it say about our national leadership when the head of an allied government can make a clearer (and faster) assessment of the situation than we have been able to accomplish, and identify the obvious right solution, while the White House continues to dither? According to the Prime Minister, “The Taliban’s original plan . . . was to defeat us through conventional warfare. This plan has failed. The Taliban’s hope now is that even if they cannot win outright, through asymmetric warfare, through intimidating the population and through preventing economic progress, they can undermine morale and erode public support back home — and persuade us to give up before the Afghan people get to see the benefits of legitimate governance, or share in the benefits of greater prosperity.” Clearly, the Biden plan would not address the new Taliban strategy.
Brown is clearly signaling that the only hope for success in Afghanistan is adopting the McChrystal plan. “So our strategy has moved from straight-forward counter-terrorism, to more complex counter-insurgency — protecting the people, helping the government win their support, and providing them with a stake in the future.” The leader of this country’s closest ally all but called on President Obama to, in the vernacular, man up. “It is well known that President Obama is considering his response to General McChrystal’s report. It is clear that he sees that the response must come from the international coalition as a whole. For as we consider the nature of the threat we face, it is not the U.S. that is being tested in Afghanistan, nor Britain, but the international community. We entered together eight years ago. We must persist together; in our different ways we must all contribute; in the end we will succeed or fail together — and we will succeed.”
Unsaid, but clearly communicated, is the fact that both America’s allies and enemies are watching to see what this President does. They will take from his decision the answer to a single question which is, does the United States have the will to do the right thing, to stay the course in tough times, to stand with its allies or can it be bullied? The answer to this question will determine whether or not we have peace in our time.
Find Archived Articles: