The real issue in Afghanistan


The Rolling Stone article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal has the blog and pundit world all atwitter, with calls for the general's resignation, deep sighs of remorse, lofty comments about the sanctity of the commander in chief and the chain of command and lots more. The dude screwed up; you don't let your aides dis the president like that. But that's really off the point.

Frankly, if there were a way for the U.S. to be successful in Afghanistan, and McChrystal were the guy to do it, Obama shouldn't care what the guy says. Whatever; you mean you never griped about your boss? It happens. Calling dinner with a French cabinet minister "fucking gay" is pretty fucking stupid, I admit. Overall, the interviews show astonishly bad judgment. (Oh, and General, sir: Don't go out drinking and get shitfaced with a reporter if you don't want to look bad in print.)

But the real point of the Rolling Stone story comes at the very end:

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.

In other words, who cares if the commanding general is a moron with a staff made up of armed frat boys? We can't win anyway. And we don't belong there. That's the only thing that matters.


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