In a must-read article, Bob Herbert in a op-ed column to be published Saturday in the New York Times describes the current situation in Afghanistan, as follows:
There is no good news coming out of the depressing and endless war in Afghanistan. There once was merit to our incursion there, but that was long ago. Now we’re just going through the tragic motions, flailing at this and that, with no real strategy or decent end in sight.
Regarding the much-touted surge in Marja and the long-announced offensive in Kandahar, “Forget about it,” he concludes. Now the talk is no longer of an “offensive” but rather of a “civilian surge” in Kandahar. The government of Hamid Karzai is “breathtakingly corrupt and incompetent — and widely unpopular to boot,” he writes.
There is no overall game plan, no real strategy or coherent goals, to guide the fighting of U.S. forces. It’s just a mind-numbing, soul-chilling, body-destroying slog, month after month, year after pointless year.
Americans, he says, “have zoned out of this war,” and, “They don’t even want to think about it.”
Why in the world should the small percentage of the population that has volunteered for military service shoulder the entire burden of this hapless, endless effort? The truth is that top American officials do not believe the war can be won but do not know how to end it. So we get gibberish about empowering the unempowerable Afghan forces and rebuilding a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent civil society.
If we don’t have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we’re unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we’re not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it.
–Bob Hebert, “The Courage to Leave,” The New York Times, June 12, 2010 (print edition)
Dexter Filkins, “Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban,” The New York Tiimes, June 11, 2010.
Sadly, as The Observer noted on October 6, 2009,
The failure in Afghanistan has been a diplomatic and political failure, not just a military failure. Military strategy will falter if diplomatic and political strategy does not keep pace. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan by proceeding on the naive belief that we can “stand up” a legitimate government born of fraud, or that we can “stand up” an Afghan army both capable of defeating the Taliban and loyal to a government lacking in legitimacy and losing public support. Legitimacy is the key to developing both a more effective government and a more capable army and police. Without legitimacy, both possibilities appear to be but chimeras in the desert sand.
Bob Herbert’s article should be mandatory reading for every American, and every citizen of every coalition country fighting in Afghanistan. The job of the journalist, at the highest levels, is “to speak truth to power.”
Now, as in Vietnam, we wait to see how long it will take “power” to hear, and act upon, that truth.
The Trenchant Observer