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Listen to Your Ambassador and Friend, Mr. President

Good advice from Canberra.

12:50 PM, Jun 28, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Jules Crittenden calls attention to this excellent op-ed by the U.S. ambassador to Australia, Jeff Bleich, defending and explaining the American and Australian commitment to the war in Afghanistan.

Here are some highlights:

In the past three weeks we have mourned together the loss of 95 coalition troops in Afghanistan, including five Australians.

Today, we honour these brave soldiers; we grieve with their families; and we pray for those who remain fighting in Afghanistan.

But we also know that more difficult days await us as we enter one of the most dangerous and important periods in the fight to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan. It is only natural at this time to ask again why our troops are so far away fighting in this bitter battle, and when we can expect to bring them home....

With the new offensive in Kandahar, we are taking the fight back to where it started, against those who started it. We must disrupt, dismantle and defeat them, if we do not want Afghanistan to fall back into their hands, and extreme violence to return.

This is not a theoretical fear; it happened, and will happen again, unless we fight. That is why we are both there. It is to protect the ability of all free people to live in peace and security....

Our plan is also clear. We seek to establish security so that real civil society for the Afghan people can take root without fear it of falling back into terrorist hands.

If we succeed, then by the middle next year we can begin drawing down troops and refocusing on transferring power and strengthening Afghan institutions....

This has always been the price of freedom. Earlier generations paid that same price for us, and now we pay it forward.

This war will end when we – Australians and Americans – are safe from the same terrorists who attacked us before, and when Afghans themselves are safe.

We will know success when Afghanistan is no longer a base for violent hatred and a launching point for terrorist attacks on the innocent.

That is why we must fight.

Jules correctly suggests that Bleich’s boss, the president whom he represents in Canberra, could usefully adopt some more of this fighting spirit in his rhetoric.

What Jules doesn’t mention is that Bleich has been personally close to Obama for two decades, and that until less than a year ago he worked in the Obama White House. So maybe the fact that Bleich wrote this op-ed is another hopeful straw in the wind about Obama’s increasing understanding about the importance of the commitment—and his commitment—in Afghanistan. The president needs to grasp that it isn’t just some unfortunate burden he inherited, but that it’s key to the success of American foreign policy—and that success there would not merely be something we grudgingly realize we have to try to achieve, for a while, but that it would be something to be proud of.

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