Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Okay, so McChrystal is out ...

Now can we focus on the real problem? The U.S. war in Afghanistan makes no sense. You're hitting bottom when two of the New York Times' vacuous columnists savage the project on the same day.

You know you're in trouble when you’re in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban.

Thomas Friedman

It's just another sign of the complete incoherence of Afghan policy. The people in charge are divided against each other. And the policy is divided against itself. We're fighting a war against an enemy that we’re desperately trying to co-opt and win over in a country where Al Qaeda, which was supposed to be the enemy, is no longer based.

Maureen Dowd

When these two have figured it out, you are pretty far gone.

The Afghanistan adventure is a sad by-product of the country's attachment to imperial power -- to seeing our will be done in far-off places -- and the decline of U.S. ability to impose that power in a changing world. That's the reality within which politicians must shape policy. We're still the largest military force, enjoy a huge economy, possess the greatest potential riches, but we're no longer unchallenged as we were in much of the last century. For politicians and people alike, we need to face the new reality and adjust gracefully, or we'll adjust painfully.

Andrew Bacevich is no hippy peacenik; he's a retired soldier who lost a soldier son in the Iraq war. His Memorial Day musings are thus very poignant:

In recent decades especially, the connection between American military intervention and American freedom has become ever more tenuous. Meanwhile, competence has proved notably hard to come by. Rather than being a one-off event, Vietnam inaugurated an era in which the United States has routinely misunderstood and repeatedly misused military power. Even as political authorities sent U. S. forces into action with ever greater frequency, decisive results — what we used to call victory — became more elusive. From Beirut and Bosnia to Iraq and Somalia, the troops served and sacrificed while expending huge sums of taxpayer money. How their exertions were helping to keep Americans free became increasingly difficult to discern.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, already the longest shooting war in U.S. history, embodies these trends. Just about no one, from the senior field commander on down, considers the war there winnable in any meaningful sense. Arguments for perpetuating the U.S. military commitment resemble those once offered to justify Vietnam: We can't afford to look weak; American credibility is on the line.

Los Angeles Times

President Obama has protected the credibility of civilian rule and his own credibility by replacing General McChrystal. But where's the country's credibility? Are we to be solely an engine of worldwide, blundering violence?

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