President Obama seems determined to do what many others over the centuries have failed to do: win in Afghanistan.
The obstacles are many and formidable:
an enemy that retreats into sanctuaries in Pakistan;
an offense limited to stealth drone attacks in these sanctuaries;
a Pakistani military that is unable or unwilling to destroy them;
a Pakistani government that is obsessed with India, unstable, and
limited in what in can do to attack fellow Muslims without risking
overthrown by militant extremists;
an American public that is tired of the endless conflicts with Muslim
nations and losing confidence in our ability to restore peace, order,
and justice in that troubled, complex land;
billions spent in these wars in Muslim nations that badly needed
a partner in Karzai who is corrupt and surrounded by corruption---we could go on.
The larger context is that we fight these wars with volunteers and deficit financing, a situation that costs the rest of us very little at the moment. But I worry about a situation in which presidents can wage wars which are personally costly for a few but with little or no personal burden for the rest of us.
My impression of the military is that for the most part their standard line is the same as it was in Vietnam--give us more troops, a clear definition of our mission, and a little more time.
We face a cruel dilemma. On the one hand, our leaving might result in another Taliban and disaster for the masses of Afghan people, especially women and children. On the other hand, we face the prospect of staying there indefinitely with no assurance that we can ever make things right.
There is no good solution, only bad, worse, and catastrophic options. But which is which? If we knew, would the political situation allow its implementation?
Is this a glimmer of hope?
Or is it like all those false hopes when Israel has talks with Palestinians?