I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.Taken out of context, the remark is outrageous.
In context, however, it is merely unhappy.
The President goes on to say:
We're not dealing with nation states at this point. We're concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda's allies," he said. "So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States.In context, the POTUS is simply reminding us that we cannot expect there to be a single moment, a particular action on the part of the erstwhile belligerents, reestablishing peace, with all the attendant consequences.
I will go so far as to say I agree with the President's limited view of our war objectives: while we are not at war with the people of Afghanistan, neither do we owe them in justice what we owe the people of Iraq, i.e. a real chance at securing for themselves ordered liberty in civil society under good government. That the best angels of our nature do inspire us to work for the betterment of the Afghani people's lot even as we continue to prosecute the war against our enemies operating on their soil, is a sign of the magnanimity of the American people, and laudable as such. We do not owe it to them.
I will even allow the President's lapse in historical memory to go uncriticized - after all, the Japanese Foreign Minister was acting as the Emperor's attorney on the deck of the USS Missouri.
I will, however, allow myself to offer an alternative to the President's infelicitous incipit.
If I were the POTUS, I would have said:
"Of course, our goal in Afghanistan is victory. We do not employ American military might with any other goal in sight; we do not spend our war treasure for any other end; to no other purpose, but that of absolute and total victory, do we put our sons and daughters in harm's way. We cannot, however, expect the moment of victory to come upon us as it has in the past - with a formal surrender and a conclusion of peace. Our enemy is not the Reich, or the Empire of Japan. Our enemy is creeping and lawless; he hides in the shadows, he slithers in and out of caves in the darkest and most desolate regions of the world, preying on those unfortunates, who with great invention make those places their home; he lurks, and he cowers, ever vigilant, for he would not lose a single opportunity to destroy innocent life, to steal another's legitimate property and bend it to sinister purpose, to reduce to servitude the one who would only be his neighbor. As long as such as these are able in Afghanistan to harm our people and our interests, and to impede those people on whom they prey for daily subsistence, as those people seek to better themselves and secure a brighter future for their children, so long shall American arms be employed in Afghanistan."
There are those who say I was born in the wrong century.
Perhaps they are right.
I hope they are wrong.