But that was then, and this is now. As the historian Robert Dallek told Obama recently, “War kills off great reform movements.” As the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne reminded the president, his supporters voted for him not to win a war but to win a victory on health care and other domestic issues. Obama’s priorities lie not in the Hindu Kush but in America: Why squander your presidency on trying to turn an economically moribund feudal backwater into a functioning nation state when you can turn a functioning nation state into an economically moribund feudal backwater?
Gosh, given their many assertions that Afghanistan is “a war we have to win” (Obama to the VFW, August 2008), you might almost think, pace Judi Romaine, that it’s the president and water-bearers like Gunga Dionne who are the “cynics.” In a recent speech to the Manhattan Institute, Charles Krauthammer pointed out that, in diminishing American power abroad to advance statism at home, Obama and the American people will be choosing decline. There are legitimate questions about our war aims in Afghanistan, and about the strategy necessary to achieve them. But, eight years after being toppled, the Taliban will see their return to power as a great victory over the Great Satan, and so will the angry young men from Toronto to Yorkshire to Chechnya to Indonesia who graduated from Afghanistan’s Camp Jihad during the 1990s. And so will the rest of the world: They will understand that the modern era’s ordnungsmacht (the “order maker”) has chosen decline.