Ace makes a good point in distinguishing this from Reid’s infamous declaration that the war was lost in Iraq: Dingy Harry was aiming at withdrawal, which would have assured the outcome he had in mind, while Fred’s trying to pressure Obama into committing to the war and proving him wrong. Even so, this is a rotten thing to say when troops are in the field, with morale already sagging. But don’t take my word for it. Take Fred Thompson’s:
HANNITY: The biggest battle we have is this war on terror, this battle in Iraq. We have a really deep divide in the country. Senator Reid the war is lost. We still have to finish the job there. Where do you stand in general on the war on terror and, more specifically, in Iraq, and on the divide surrounding Iraq?
THOMPSON: Well, let’s talk about Senator Reid for a moment. Right before I came over here, I was sitting outside, getting a bite to eat, before we did our interview. A young woman [former Army captain] came up and asked if she could sit down and talk to me a minute… I asked her what she thought about this. She said, “How in the world can anyone, any one of our leaders, declare war, declare that the war has been lost when we’ve got troops in the field? My friends are over there in the field. I know what they think about this.”
And, of course, it’s just like all other Americans think. The very idea that they would do this and undercut our efforts over there is unprecedented. And it’s not only unprecedented; it’s awful politics.
Awful politics indeed. That blockquote comes courtesy of Vets for Freedom founder Pete Hegseth, who proceeds to lay Thompson out for his double standard and for jumping the gun:
President Obama may not be many people’s preferred commander in chief, but he is our commander in chief. He still may commit sufficient resources to Afghanistan, and it’s almost certain that his generals will support additional troop levels. Our warriors will take the fight to the enemy, and hopefully turn the tide in Afghanistan.
The war is not lost, but it could be lost; especially if our political leaders, and political commentators, start making statements like this. There may be a point at which the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth pursuing, but it’s certainly not before the president announces his decision on troop levels and our top-tier generals are given a chance to execute a counterinsurgency strategy.
I assume Fred said this now rather than later precisely because Obama hasn’t made his decision yet; if the GOP’s going to pressure him on troop levels, there’s no logic in waiting until after he’s given the orders. But let’s say the gambit fails and The One ends up giving McChrystal only 25,000 of the 40,000 troops he asked for. What are soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, some of whom are undoubtedly Thompson fans, supposed to do with his declaration of defeat then? McChrystal will be trying to rally them to believe that they can do the job even though they’re shorthanded — and meanwhile here’s a leading conservative telling them that they can’t, that they’re fighting for a lost cause. Terrific.
Update: Commenters are arguing that if we’re only going to fight at half-strength, to “lose with honor,” then we’re better off bringing everyone home and saving some American lives. That’s a noble sentiment — I’m sure I’ve said it before myself — but the hard, cold fact of the matter is that bringing them home isn’t an option that’s being considered. McChrystal’s either going to get the troops he wants or some fraction thereof, and he’ll have to try to secure the country with what he’s got. Which way do righties want to play it going forward? Trying to win with the resources available or sporadically telling the troops who’ll have to fight the rest of this war under tough conditions that they’re destined to lose?