Thousands of miles from Fort Hood, there are soldiers fighting to win in Afghanistan. Winning there is a big, a really big, part of preventing the next Fort Hood. It was dead wrong of the White House not to acknowledge from the outset that the murderous outrage at a stateside American Army post was part of fighting and winning the Long War. A year later that error in judgment looms even larger.
Whether lone wolf or dispatched from a cave in Waziristan all the plots to murder Americans are related and linked to the same cause—an evil that we have come to know well. Its message is the same old lie—somehow the slaughter of innocents will cure the world’s ills.
Including the most recent attempt to ship bombs through commercial air freight carriers, at least 33 attempts to attack America since 9/11 have been foiled. We gain nothing by pretending that in vital ways that all these plots, the Fort Hood massacre, and battle now raging in Afghanistan/Pakistan are not all part of the same struggle. Bin Laden’s mad vision is at the root of all these evil efforts.
The brutal truth is that the shortest route to the next 9/11 or Fort Hood is for the United States to cut and run in Afghanistan. Not matter, how the critics try to frame the mission to justify running away before the job is done, the reality is that the wilds of Afghanistan and Pakistan are Al Qaeda central. Unless it is rooted out, we would be handing Al Qaeda not only a propaganda victory of immeasurable value, but allowing them to reestablish a sanctuary from which they could strike at the West with virtual immunity. Additionally, as long as Al Qaeda exists it will reach out to recruit or inspire more like Major Hasan.
Finishing Al Qaeda off requires two essential and related actions: One is establishing an Afghanistan that can govern and defend itself. This mission is not nation-building, but the vital task that must be done to take space away from the Taliban to operate.
It is precursor to defeating the Taliban and forcing what is left to disarm and reintegrate peacefully into the Pashtun communities that span the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Defeating the Taliban is a prerequisite for destroying Al Qaeda. The two organizations protect and support one another.
The second task is defeating the Taliban within Pakistan and destroying Al Qaeda. This work must mostly be done by Pakistan. A task they will never undertake if they believe the United States lacks the resolve to stick it out until the job is done.
Every time there is an act of terror like the Fort Hood shootings or an anniversary of that tragic event, the president should use that occasion to remind Americans what we are fighting for—to root out this incarnation of evil. It was disappointing that the White House failed to do this on the day of the Fort Hood shootings. It is even more demoralizing that it has failed to remind Americans about that truth today.
Indeed, the president’s own base is indifferent to the mission in Afghanistan. In one survey less than one-third of self-described Democrats thought the war was worth fighting for.
If our own president will not remind them of why we fight--why should we be surprised that they don’t care or don’t understand how the slaughter at Fort Hood is part of the struggle to win the Long War.
James Jay Carafano is Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.