When Bin Laden hunter Gary Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan and returned to the United States, the media had fun lampooning the Colorado resident with his heart set on taking out Al-Qaeda’s top man. But Faulkner’s foreign policy is far more sensible than anything Washington continues to promote, and if forced to choose between the colorful construction worker and Obama, it is the president who is acting crazy.
When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, its alleged mission was not unlike Faulkner’s: to exact revenge on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban for 9/11. At the top of the list: capturing or killing terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden. For most Americans, and indeed most of the world, the reasons for going into Afghanistan made sense.
Today, the ongoing war in Afghanistan doesn’t. While there might have been near unanimous support for a kick-ass-and-come-home approach in 2001, today, good reasons as to why we are still in Afghanistan are in short supply. Are we there to fight Al-Qaeda? According to Gen. David Petraeus, Al-Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan, a point reiterated last week by CIA Director Leon Panetta. Are we in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban? According to a March Los Angeles Times report, “‘The Afghan Taliban does not want to be seen as, or heard of, having the same relationship with [Al-Qaeda] that they had in the past,’ said [a] senior official, who is familiar with the latest intelligence.’”
After President Obama announced the replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Petraeus, Obama was asked by a reporter as he exited the Rose Garden, “Mr. President, can this war be won?” The president had no time for such an elementary inquiry. And neither does he have time or patience for what he called “a lot of obsession” about ending the war in Afghanistan.
Though the main focus of the controversial Rolling Stone article on McChrystal was the tension and disconnect between the now-former Afghanistan commander and the Obama administration, the article was primarily about the utter futility of the war. Author Michael Hastings wrote: “Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it’s going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. ‘It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win, or taste like a win,’ says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. ‘This is going to end in an argument.’”
Retired Col. Douglas MacGregor, an architect of Operation Desert Storm, was even more blunt about our prospects in Afghanistan, telling Fox News host Judge Andrew Napolitano that our presence is a “hopeless endeavor” and a “bottomless pit.”
Today, it is almost considered impolite to bring up our original reason for going into Afghanistan. And yet, what is crazier: A man still so enraged by 9/11 that he insists on going after Bin Laden by himself or a government that has abandoned its original stated mission but still keeps fighting? Faulkner had a definite and clear-cut goal that directly targeted our primary enemy. Our government’s commitment remains unclear and indefinite, yet it bizarrely claims to be focused on enemies our top leaders admit are no longer in Afghanistan. If it is true that Faulkner embarked on a highly improbable mission, it is even truer that America foolishly continues on its mission impossible.
Our foreign policy is more like a foreign permanency, something columnist George Will breaks down well: “Those Americans who say Afghanistan is a test of America’s ‘staying power’ are saying we must stay there because we are there. This is steady work, but treats perseverance as a virtue regardless of context or consequences and makes futility into a reason for persevering.”
If there was ever a good reason for going into Afghanistan, we can be certain our leaders have forgotten it at this point, and it’s amusing now to see so many laughing at the one man who insists on remembering it — if to a ridiculous degree.
On June 13, Pakistani officials found Faulkner in the woods of northern Pakistan with a pistol, a sword, and night-vision equipment, trying to help fight the War on Terror. As we continue fighting the longest war in American history for no apparent reason at all, Faulkner’s approach might be crazy, but this government’s approach is damn near criminal.