A war that’s bigger than Afghanistan

But what if the reality is that, from Pakistan in the east to Tunisia in the west, and most visibly now in places such as Iran and Yemen and Somalia — and not just in Afghanistan — we are at war with political Islamism, a movement whose ability to find state sponsors and enablers is not limited to just one country or two? This isn’t a pleasant reality, and even the Bush administration wasn’t quite ready to confront it. But President George W. Bush did capture the truth that we are engaged in — and had no choice but to engage in — a bigger war, a “global war on terror,” of which Afghanistan was only one front.

There are, of course, problems with “global war on terror” as a phrase and an organizing principle. But it does capture what we might call the “big” view of 9/11 and its implications.

It would be wonderful if Obama’s view of 9/11 and its implications were correct. But if it’s not going to be true that Afghanistan is where “this time of war . . . will end” — even if Afghanistan is pacified and we’re no longer fighting there — then the American people should know that.