Barack Obama has joined the party of war.
Since it became clear that he would be the Democratic presidential nominee, Obama has left behind his peacenik rhetoric and seems eager to inform anyone who will listen that as president he would escalate U.S. military intervention — in Afghanistan.
Last week, immediately after completing his first-ever trip to Afghanistan, Obama made a pronouncement from that most sacred of liberal precincts, the op-ed page of The New York Times.
"As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan," he wrote. "We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there."
In other words, Obama would order a surge — in Afghanistan.
This week, Obama repeated his call for a surge when he appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press."
"It was clear to me that Afghanistan is the central front on terror, that the Taliban and al-Qaida have reconstituted themselves," he said. "We’re going to need two additional brigades in Afghanistan, and we’ve got to work with Pakistan to get serious about these terrorists safe havens."
Not long after Obama spoke, a suspected U.S. missile, suspected to be under orders from President Bush, smashed into the suspected Pakistani house of al-Qaida’s suspected chemical-and-biological weapons man, who is now suspected to be posthumously appreciating the realization that his safe haven was not as safe as either he or Obama believed.
What was most revealing about Obama’s statement on "Meet the Press," however, was Obama’s implicit concession that the United States is in a multi-front war. He did say, after all, that "Afghanistan is the central front on terror." He did not say it was the only front.
So, now that we know Obama will order a surge in Afghanistan, Americans need to ponder what tactics he is likely to employ on other fronts and how likely it is that the sum of these tactics will add up to a strategic U.S. victory.
What is a U.S. victory? Simply this: Stopping Islamic terrorists from ever again perpetrating mass murder on U.S. soil.
This has been President Bush’s primary aim ever since Sept. 11, 2001. And no matter what else Bush’s critics say about him, there is one thing they cannot say: He allowed Islamic terrorists to hit our homeland again.
In the almost seven years since Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists have failed to carry out a single attack inside our country.
Bush has achieved this success by unflinching use of multitudinous aggressive tactics. He won congressional authorization for a war in Afghanistan and invaded that country. He won congressional authorization for a war in Iraq and invaded that country, too. He secured passage of the PATRIOT Act and made use of the greater latitude it gave law enforcement to track potential terrorists inside the United States. He ordered warrantless wiretaps of international communications in and out of the United States when a suspected terrorist was a party to the communication. He ordered that terrorists be tried by military tribunals. He ordered captured terrorists held at a prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He ordered the occasional use of aggressive interrogation techniques, including (in a few circumstances) water-boarding.
He drove the surviving leaders of al-Qaida into an uncomfortable corner of Pakistan where each night they must wonder if the next suspected U.S. missile will crash into their "safe haven."
To be sure, Bush has made some mistakes. Invading Iraq in the first place may have been one of them. But the end consequence of Bush’s aggressive approach is manifest in a result few would have predicted on Sept. 11, 2001: For seven years, he has kept us, our children and our neighborhoods safe. The essence of Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ complaint against Bush is that he did too much in the war on terror — except in Afghanistan. There, they complain, he did too little.
For Obama and the Democrats, Bush water-boarded too many Khalid Sheikh Mohammads, imprisoned too many in Guantanamo, made too many arguments against granting terrorists access to federal courts, authorized too many warrantless international wiretaps, made too much use of the PATRIOT Act and put too many troops in Iraq.
To prove they are not appeasers, they want more troops in Afghanistan.
But leaving aside Afghanistan, where Obama and the Democrats are now committed to becoming the war party, an all-Democratic government led by Obama can be counted on to use fewer aggressive tactics against Islamic terrorists than President Bush did.
We can only hope they don’t end up using one tactic too few.