The Buzz

Too Late for Honor

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial reflected the lack of coherence in the country’s Afghanistan policy—and in the thinking of Journal editorialists. Its title: “Afghan Retreat, Cont.” The pull-out passage read, “Neither Karzai nor the Taliban seem to believe President Obama.”

The Journal cites polls saying Americans are souring on the war, and last week’s events weren’t likely to improve the mood. First, Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the United States, even saying he doubted the killing spree against Afghan civilians by a U.S. sergeant was a lone action but likely involved more Americans (this contrary to all evidence). Then the insurgent Taliban “rejected the Obama Administration’s increasingly desperate entreaties to come to the bargaining table.”

The picture drawn by the Journal is one of Obama seeking to bring off an Afghan retreat while U.S. allies and enemies there exploit that military maneuver to undercut the Americans (Karzai) or wait them out (Taliban).  As the paper noted, “All of this is further proof that strategic retreat is messy and dangerous.”

True enough. But the editorial, after elaborating on this point a bit, then attacks Obama for his lack of rhetorical leadership on the war. “But a Commander in Chief’s job is to relentlessly explain what the war strategy is, why it is being pursued, and why the sacrifice is worth it.” The paper speculated that political considerations might be driving Obama’s reticence and adds: “It’s no way to run a war, much less end it with honor.”

But the Journal doesn’t bother to suggest how a country ends a war with honor when—as polls show—nearly two thirds of its citizens oppose the war and want a quick end to it. The Journal may want to look back on its long string of editorials touting the war and every presidential decision to expand it. Those helped lead the country into a conflict that now seems increasingly hopeless. Perhaps inadvertently, this flawed editorial suggests it may be too late to worry about getting out with honor when just getting out expresses the national mood.