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Send General Joab to Afghanistan

The Bible tells the story of a man named Sheba and his confederates who rebelled against King David (2 Sam 20:1-22).  David’s forces under Joab defeated the rebellion, then Joab went after Sheba personally.  Sheba fled to a distant city called Abel of Beth-maachah with Joab in hot pursuit.  Upon arriving, Joab’s army began battering down the city wall to get their man.  A woman interceded with Joab for her city, and Joab agreed to spare the city if Sheba’s head were thrown over the city wall.  The head minus its body soon appeared, and the city was saved.

Right after 9-11, Mr. Bush said the United States would no longer distinguish between terrorists and governments that harbor them.  That might have been effective counsel had we followed it.  The war in Afghanistan might have ended in weeks had we identified the terrorists and Al Queda members we wanted, explained to the inhabitants of the region a clear choice: Deliver these and you’ll live.  Shelter them, and you’ll all die when we come after them.  You’re never quite sure what people will do, but the Taliban were never a popular movement in the region as Time magazine is showing this week.  I’m guessing that in something less than nine years, the population would have delivered up Osama and all his minions.

As General MacArthur famously said, “In war, there is no substitute for victory.”  The post-World War Two concept of nation-building doesn’t work unless the entire enemy population is so thoroughly defeated in its mind and national spirit that they are eager to accept anything their conquerors say as a condition of peace.  The Afghans and some of their Pakistani allies aren’t there yet, and if the horrors of the Taliban didn’t prepare them for it, the current American approach certainly won’t.

Another American general, William Tecumseh Sherman, noted that “War is hell.”  And it is.  It’s killing and maiming, it’s collateral damage and cities ablaze, it’s orphans and starving widows, it’s your own “victorious” young men and women coming back home dead, wounded, crippled, many mentally destroyed, some guilty of unspeakable crimes.  That’s what war is every time.  If your cause is not worth doing this, then skip the middle step and accept whatever it means not to fight.  In our case, that would have meant leaving the crimes of September 11, 2001 unavenged.  To a limited extent, that’s in fact what has happened.  Osama bin Laden and some of his henchmen are still alive.  Thousands of Afghans and Americans are dead, and we still haven’t evened the score with them.

Ho Chi Minh and his successors taught America an important lesson that we have yet to learn.  If your nation doesn’t have the stomach to pay the price of real victory, then you shouldn’t take on people who do.  America should either kill all the Taliban and Al Queda by any means necessary or else embrace defeat.  After nine years, it’s time to finish this business once and for all.  Killing and dying to maintain one more year of stalemate with these savages is equal parts madness and stupidity.

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