JUST for fun, Reader, imagine for a moment this piece authored, or "authored", by three responsible thinkers pondering the continuing US military effort in Afghanistan, rather than three of the biggest mirror-gazers in the United States Senate (consider! what prodigies of ego-wanking it would take to rank in the Top Five among reality-show contestants! There are 100 U.S. Senators!). If it helps any, go ahead and imagine the results published somewhere other than The Op-Ed Section Where Peggy Noonan Is the Voice of Sanity.
What, exactly, would falsify the idea that only decisive force can prevail in Iraq? (And we're trying to be generous, here, in overlooking the implications of that pleonasm in the title, for the nonce, anyway. As we shall see, self-fulfilling prophecy will hover around the piece like mosquitoes in swampland, and going in without DEET is just a moment's showing off we'll regret even before the actual slapping frenzy takes hold.) Would you anticipate some consideration of what "Prevail" means? Or the actual consequences of "Not Prevailing?" Perhaps a broad suggestion of what "Decisive Force" would mean in terms of numbers, or "Prevail" in terms of months or years? If so, then, you have pretty much defined what's missing in the actual exercise.
Growing numbers of Americans are starting to doubt whether we should have troops in Afghanistan and whether the war there is even winnable.
Translation: George Eff Will said so in a WaPo column.
We are confident that not only is it winnable, but that we have no choice. We must prevail in Afghanistan.
"We're confident that we have no choice."
We went to war there because the 9/11 attacks were a direct consequence of the safe haven given to al Qaeda in that country under the Taliban.
Okay, look, I realize that Nine 'Leven is for you what watching A Hard Day's Night or thinking about Westlake Drive-In and the back seat of my Dodge Valiant is for me. But, c'mon. My memories may be a little rosy after forty years, but yours ought to be a little clearer. We went to war in Afghanistan because the Paleolithic religious nuts who'd seized power in their country refused to turn over Osama bin-Laden fast enough to suit the Paleolithic religious nuts who'd seized power in ours. That they certainly did not have the power to have captured and handed them over, even if they had had the will to do so, may be regarded as immaterial, since we knew they couldn't and would have been pissed at the missed opportunity to bomb the shit out of someone. "The Taliban" enters into the equation in the same sense that "indiscriminately taking revenge on brown people, or Muslims of whatever stripe" does; they were in our way, and bloodlust isn't slaked by nuance, Charlie. It might be noted here, however inconveniently, that we didn't exactly catch bin-Laden, either, that the guy who planned the thing was in Kuwait, the guy who financed most of it in Dubai, and most of the participants were Saudis. Also, the guy who ignored the "Bin-Laden Determined To Strike US" memo was in Texas. We didn't drop any bombs on any of them, though doing so might have led to some immediate improvements. The whole thing could have unfolded in the United States of America, for that matter, and much of it did, under the lazy eye of the G-Men.
We remain at war because a resurgent Taliban, still allied with al Qaeda, is trying to restore its brutal regime and re-establish that country as a terrorist safe haven.
We're fighting an insurgency we created by invading, failing our mission--in part because we reduced American forces at a critical moment so we could prepare for failing in Iraq, which had nothing to do with it--then sticking around forever trying to save face. We call it the "Taliban" for the same reason Velveeta calls its product "Cheese"; because we may not always know what sells, but we sure as hell know what doesn't. We're still there because the successor to the Mastermind of Total Fuck Ups thought demonstrating militancy in Afghanistan would show voters his anti-Iraq war rhetoric wasn't due to Incipient Pacifist Disease, or, worse, Rationality.
It remains a clear, vital national interest of the United States to prevent this from happening. Yet an increasing number of commentators, including some of the very same individuals who opposed the surge in Iraq and called for withdrawal there, now declare Afghanistan essentially unwinnable. Had their view prevailed with respect to Iraq in 2006 and 2007, the consequences of our failure there would have been catastrophic.
There are things we know (or agree to pretend we do), and there are things we imagine, (or prefer to pretend we do). It is a little-recognized fact, apparently, that there are actual resources available to English speakers which can differentiate between them. For example: we don't know that beginning a staged withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 or 2007 would have had any consequences whatsoever. And we never will know that, because we didn't do so. What we do know is that going there in the first place was a disaster, that it was conducted under false pretenses and with a negligence beyond criminal, that our failure to define our mission or conduct ourselves sensibly engendered an insurrection there, too, and that all of that was vehemently supported every step of the way by Senators Graham, Lieberman, and McCain. We do not know the extent to which our "success" is a product of a successful PR campaign, aided by the fact that the public sickened of the thing sometime around the Third Set of New Lyin' Justifications and tuned out, how much, if any, of the reduction of violence is due to a "new" military paradigm, how much due to paying off Sunni insurgents, how much due to the Iraqi's realization that our time there is short, and how much 100% bullshit. Nor do we have any idea what will happen once we're gone, in a hundred years or so, by some estimates. Though this would not prevent "some" commentators, of roughly my height and shoe size, from offering dollars to doughnuts the results will be less than optimal. But only if the three of you agree to choke on the doughnuts if you win.
Similarly, the ramifications of an American defeat in Afghanistan would not only be a devastating setback for our nation in what is now the central front in the global war on terror, but would inevitably further destabilize neighboring, nuclear Pakistan. Those who advocate such a course were wrong about Iraq, and they are wrong about Afghanistan.
See comment above. Further, those who supported a headlong bull rush into the Graveyard of Imperial Armies and now express concern about unintended effects on "neighboring, nuclear Pakistan" are lying sacks of shit.
The growing calls for withdrawal reflect, more than anything, our failure to show progress in the war. After eight years of fighting, the American people see rising casualties and no sign that the tide is turning in our direction.
Their doubts are natural and understandable, and we must respond to them directly and clearly. Our problems in Afghanistan are not because the Taliban are invincible or popular. They are neither. Rather, our problems result from what was, for years, a mismanaged and underresourced war.
In other words, the problem in Afghanistan is not the lack of military progress in defeating the Poorest Most Godforsaken Nation on Earth and its Non-Existent Military; the problem is that we went about it precisely the way that Senators Graham, Lieberman, and McCain voted to. Repeatedly.
Our mistakes are infuriating, but they are also reversible.
That's what we tried to tell Connecticut, and look how that worked out.
We have an exceptional new commander on the ground, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has begun a top-to-bottom overhaul of all aspects of our war policy and put forward a dramatically new civil-military strategy that clearly identifies failed policies and prioritizes the proven principles of counterinsurgency, including protecting civilians, creating legitimate and effective governance, and boosting economic development. With Gen. McChrystal, together with a new ambassador and a new deputy commander, we believe we now have the team on the ground that can win this war.
And this time, we mean it.
However, we need more than the right team and the right strategy. This team must also have the resources it needs to succeed—including a significant increase in U.S. forces.
Okay, fun's fun, but where th' fuck are they supposed to come from this time? Can we retrieve some of the money all three of you voted repeatedly to toss down the shit hole for a "Missile Defense System"? Maybe a feasibility study on the prospects of finding somebody willing to be lowered down there? Y'all voted repeatedly to stop redeployment of non-essential troops from Iraq. You've got access to the CBO, the Pentagon, and Senator McCain is the greatest military mind of his generation. How many troops, how much will that cost, and when do we win? And where does the money come from? Might you hazard a wild fucking guess?
More troops will not guarantee success in Afghanistan, but a failure to send them is a guarantee of failure.
It's funny, but I could have sworn you were the guys just telling me it was "decisive".
We recognize that a decision to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan will be politically difficult here at home. Some will say we can't afford it. Others will warn the president of "quagmire" and urge him to send either no new forces, or fewer than Gen. McChrystal recommends—perhaps with the promise of "re-evaluating" further deployments later on.
It is precisely this middle path—which the previous administration pursued for too long in Iraq—that is a recipe for quagmire and collapse of political support for the war at home. Mr. Obama was right when he said last year that "You don't muddle through the central front on terror . . . You don't muddle through stamping out the Taliban."
And see however many times we've noted above that it was followed with your support, even if Smoochy McCain did grouse about it not going as well as if he were Commander-in-Chief, before he had to fellate Bush in public.
As for the "middle ground", if I may prevail upon you gentlemen to wait until my head stops revolving: Christ on a cracker, the full-on Death from the Skies crusades were of 2001-2005 vintage. It wasn't until the President was safely back in office that he fired Rumsfeld and slowly began fighting an insurgency like an insurgency. Gearing up to fight the Iraq war properly would have taken years, and it would have required a draft. Meaning Bush wouldn't have been around in 2005 with the luxury to change his mind. If we can just conjure up the "decisive force" now, why didn't any of you geniuses insist on doing so back then? As in, when it might have made a difference.
We have reached a seminal moment in our struggle against violent Islamist extremism, and we must commit the "decisive force" that Gen. McChrystal tells us carries the least risk of failure.
And this time, we mean it.
In the interim, the president and his allies—and we count ourselves among them on this issue—must invest significantly greater effort to explain why, as the president recently put it, Afghanistan is a "war of necessity."
Sheesh, somebody just gave you 1000 words of prime Op-Ed real estate. * Could you have made a start here?
Additional U.S. resources must be accompanied by significant and meaningful benchmarks that hold the government of Afghanistan and our own government accountable. We must ensure that Afghan leaders are doing their part to combat the corruption and insecurity that undermine the counterinsurgency effort.
And this time…nah, we don't mean that this time, either. Had ay goin' though, didn't we?
* albeit in Bizarro World