Politicians hate taking back things they say. They aren’t disposed — given the nature of the work they do — to admit when they’re wrong, at least not openly.
President Obama has declared in recent years that “The war on terror is over.”
I cannot read his mind, but my throbbing bunion and my trick knee are telling me the same thing: He well might wish he could take it back.
He pronounced the end of the war on terror as the United States was pulling its troops out of Iraq. Our ground war there had concluded. All that was left was to fight the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other splinter terror groups in Afghanistan.
The terrorists have taken a terrible beating at the hands of the greatest military apparatus in world history. They keep coming back. Their resilience is astonishing.
Al-Qaeda is now taking credit for the Paris shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. France is on high alert. French intelligence operatives are looking for a fourth terrorist who reportedly might have fled to Syria; three other terrorists were killed.
The columnist Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist by training who isn’t known as a counterterrorism “expert,” says we’re entering the “third stage of the jihad.” His link is attached to this blog post. I don’t quite understand how he knows what stage this we’re, or how the terrorists measure these things. He’s a smart fellow, though, so perhaps he knows something many of the rest of us don’t know.
I do know, this, though: The president spoke far too prematurely in declaring the “war on terror is over.”
Indeed, some of us have noted since the dark days immediately after 9/11 that the war against international terror may never end. I questioned at the time of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan how we could declare victory, other than by simply declaring it and going home. The late U.S. Sen. George Aiken, R-Vt., once proposed such a thing — only partly in jest — when he suggested we declare victory in Vietnam and then just leave.
That well might be what President Obama has done. He declared a victory that he couldn’t define.
The Paris attack and all the attacks that have come in the years since 9/11 persuade me, at least, that the war on terror will be ongoing well past the foreseeable future.
I am not expecting an admission of error from the president of the United States. I believe, though, that we ought to stop talking like victors while continuing to act like combatants.
This war isn’t over.