Enter the White Queen

by George Will

WASHINGTONLast Thursday, the president’s “engagement” with Iran began. This Wednesday, the U.S. war in Afghanistan will enter its ninth year. And U.S. foreign policy is entering a White Queen phase.

In “Through the Looking Glass,” Alice says she is unable to believe the White Queen’s claim to be 101. The Queen responds, “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.” Alice: “There’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.” Queen: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


Regarding Afghanistan, the president might believe he can effect a Houdini-like escape, uninjured, from the box his words have built. Regarding Iran, he seems to believe its leaders can be talked or coerced (by economic sanctions) out of their long, costly pursuit of nuclear weapons by convincing them that such weapons do not serve Iran’s “security.”

On March 27, the president announced “a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He said his “clear and focused goal” was to prevent the Taliban from toppling Afghanistan’s government, and to prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan or Pakistan. U.S. forces “will take the fight to the Taliban” in Afghanistan’s “south” and “east” but “at the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces.”

On Aug. 17, the president reiterated his belief that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is “not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.” This was two months after he replaced the U.S. commander there with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, directing him to assess the resources required for the strategy. The general has done that. But the president does not yet want to discuss troop numbers. Why not?


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