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Boychuk: We have not defeated our enemy in the war on terror

A suspicious letter recently sent to President Barack

A suspicious letter recently sent to President Barack Obama is similar in content to letters tainted with the poison ricin that were sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the gun-control group he founded, the Secret Service said. (May 23, 2013) Credit: AP

"This war, like all wars, must end,” Obama said near the end of his rambling address the other day at the university. "That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

Well, yes. War must end eventually, one way or the other. But as Gen. Douglas MacArthur reminded Americans in 195, a week after Harry Truman fired him as the Army’s commander for criticizing the president’s conduct of that notorious ”police action” on the Korean peninsula, "War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory.”

If the War on Terror is over (or will be soon), who won? For that matter, who won the Korean War?

Six decades after the ceasefire in Korea, U.S. troops remain stationed near the 38th Parallel as North Korea’s dictator threatens his neighbors with nuclear missiles.

Six decades from now, it’s a fair bet that Americans will continue to submit to routine invasions of their liberty and dignity in the name of security, while the ideology that fueled the 9/11 terrorists continues to grow unabated and unchallenged.

True, Osama bin Laden is dead. So are Saddam Hussein and his sons. Wonderful! So what? Iraq is closer to the mullahs of Iran today than it was before the 2003 invasion by U.S. troops. And the corrupt ”central government” of Afghanistan won’t last 15 minutes after the last American forces decamp. From that perspective, it’s much clearer who the victors in this war really are.

Twelve years ago this September, the United States declared war on an abstraction. Never mind what the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force” says. Despite expending billions of dollars and thousands of lives, we’re no closer to victory today than we were then.

Victory in this war would have required extinguishing the Islamist ideology much as the Allies extinguished Nazism and fascism in World War II. But Obama thinks the occasional drone strike and grudging acceptance of a permanent Homeland Security bureaucracy is an acceptable substitute. It isn’t. It never could be.

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.