Michael Steele: So wrong and yet so right

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele put his foot in his mouth last week at a fundraiser in Connecticut. He was caught on video making some oddly contradictory comments:

“Keep in mind again, for our federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

“It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan.”

“Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”

First, everyone knows the war in Afghanistan was begun by Pres. George Bush in response to the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. There probably wasn’t a person in this country who didn’t want to go after Osama bin Laden to avenge that day. To say it’s a war of Obama’s choosing, as Steele did, is to confirm you were either living in a cave or on another planet at the time. I cannot imagine what he was thinking to say something so clearly at odds with historical fact, and then two sentences later being so dead on with his history.

It may be a Republican position that Obama was “trying to be cute” by turning our focus from the distraction of Iraq — “Bush’s War” — back to our original objective, Afghanistan. But I doubt either party wants to be guilty of publicly trivializing a war as a president’s effort to be “cute.” War is never “cute,” nor are the sacrifices of the men and women who fight that war.

As for the history of war in Afghanistan, Steele got that exactly right; no outside power has ever achieved a ground war victory there. That’s something Republicans don’t want to admit. And probably, since Obama is continuing that war, Dems don’t want to admit it either. Saying or implying that a current war is unwinnable is never good for troop morale, and in an election year it’s particularly unwise.

Of course, many private citizens not fighting the war or making the decisions agree with Steele and history; the war now being fought is unwinnable, should not be pursued, and is a waste of U.S. blood, treasure, and reputation. Osama bin Laden is no longer in Afghanistan and, according to a CIA report last week, there are fewer than 100 of his al Qaeda followers left there. Our quarry has left the country; so should we.

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