We are essentially told that stifling the success of Afghan resistance hinges on One Man and One Man Only: General Stanley McChrystal, alternatively monster and ubermensch. In the end, the combination of failure and arrogance among military elites and political hacks compels them to (basically) lie to Congress:
Meanwhile, the Defense Department (DoD) sought to obscure the problem of the high ANA turnover rate in its reports to the US Congress on Afghanistan in January and June 2009, which avoided the issues of attrition and desertion entirely.Entirely? Seriously? The actual number of occupying troops needed to subdue the entire nation (an accurate description of what is necessary, given the U.S. desire to stick with Karzai) is 600,000. That such a number is not even being contemplated is a testament to the will of the people, the ordinary working people in the U.S. and Europe who won't sustain such an obscene number, a majority of whom wish the occupation to end altogether. The fact that this desire is shared by the peoples of Afghanistan shouldn't need restating, but the 25% statistic is another powerful reminder anyway.
[All this reminds me, too, to suggest reading about the Pashtun people, although I am always leery of emphasizing nationalism too much. Culture is real, and forging solidarity requires understanding. This is just something miseducated Americans don't learn about when we should.]
It looks pretty bad for the President, in any case. Con Coughlin of the Telegraph points out that
... the President has convened no fewer than nine sessions of his war council in the White House situation room, where he has pressed his advisers to provide exhaustive details on the policy options. ... Mr Obama has dropped heavy hints about what his overall strategy will be. In essence, the plan is to destroy the enemy and bring the troops home, all within a clearly defined time-frame. Or, to use the phrase coined by the US press, a policy of “escalation and exit”. ... The latest opinion polls show that the majority of Americans are opposed to the war in Afghanistan and want an immediate withdrawal. More worrying for the President’s political mortality is the fact that his personal approval rating has suffered the sharpest drop of any president in the past 50 years during the same stage of their first term, mainly because of what is perceived to be his dithering over Afghanistan. And even if, as is being widely predicted in Washington, the President approves an Iraq-like surge, the chances of it achieving the level of success needed to undertake a withdrawal by the time he seeks re-election in 2012 are remote.Stupidity, arrogance, humiliation, an insistance on pushing and punishing and killing and other noncreative solutions to conflict. That's what this ruling class has in store for us, folks. That's the best they can give us on foreign policy. We can do better than that. An approach that treats the people of Afghanistan as ends in themselves rather than means to an end would be a good start, but such a policy can only be an extension of governments that do the same at home.
Update on the extent of said stupidity: Our correspondent in Detroit alterts me that Obama won't be signing the landmine treaty. (Like many crimes against humanity, the use of landmines is currently "under review" by the administration.) Clearly, he's too smart for us or something...