Thursday, December 16, 2010

America's Most Unwanted War

As another equivocating report on Afghanistan emerges, a new poll shows the conflict has reached depths of public disapproval seen only in the last days of Vietnam:

"Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation's longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war's been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin."

Yet the best a White House review can offer a year after sending 30,000 more troops into harm's way is "fragile" but "reversible" gains in an effort that has cost 500 American lives, and counting, since then.

This is accompanied by the repeated promise of a "responsible reduction" in forces next July, but the review tapdances around the elephant in the room--Pakistan:

“(D)enial of extremist safe havens will require greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. Furthermore, the denial of extremist safe havens cannot be achieved with military means alone, but must continue to be advanced by effective development strategies.”

Translation: We can keep killing insurgents in Afghanistan, but they will be quickly replaced, unless we can buy off Pakistan to stop the flow, something we have been unable to do for almost a decade now.

Meanwhile, an anonymous White House official says, "The real debate will occur when we have to determine how big the July '11 drawdown will be," as an unnamed military source acknowledges "some very significant differences of opinion."

In the days before 24/7 cable and the Internet, 60 percent of Americans finally decided that Vietnam was "a mistake," as they feel about Afghanistan now.

Twenty years later, that opinion was held by seven out of ten. When Americans look back on Afghanistan from that distance, how will they feel?

As for now, polls, casualty lists and "reviews" will keep giving us numbers and, amid domestic economic upheaval, all that bleeding and dying will seem very far away.

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