They are not worried about his policy choices. Their concerns are more fundamental. They are worried about his determination.
These people, who follow the war for a living, who spend their days in military circles both here and in Afghanistan, have no idea if President Obama is committed to this effort. They have no idea if he is willing to stick by his decisions, explain the war to the American people and persevere through good times and bad. . . . They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.
You see this argument a lot these days. We have to persevere. We have to follow through on our commitments. We have to show our allies that they can trust us. We can't cut and run.
Well, maybe, but whenever you hear this kind of argument, you have to remember that arguments like this are the reason World War I was fought. There wasn't any particular issue at stake in the Great War, but all sides felt that they had to stick to their agreements and back up their words with deeds and generally show that they were tough and serious and meant what they said. Millions of dead men later, with Europe in ruins, they had proved their point. They were serious, and they followed through.
But for what? Before we get our backs up about toughness and determination and following through, shouldn't we have something worth fighting for? Some goal worth achieving that we can actually achieve? Because if not, determination is just the route to the Somme and Verdun.
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Update: Amy Davidson's comment on Brooks' essay was, "babbling about imposing one’s will, as if war were a matter of Ray Lewis making a goal line stand, does not tell us anything about what, exactly, we’re doing in Afghanistan."