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.