Afghanistan: All In or Out, Mr. President

Apropos of Barack Obama’s pending and unavoidable decision on Afghanistan–which he called “the right war,” “the necessary war” and so on at least 750 times during the campaign–NY Timesman Bob Herbert reminds us today of just what a momentous decision it is. And that’s why Obama must be certain, before sending more troops, that we really are in for the long, long haul.

To underscore the point, Herbert quotes John McCain’s preface to David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, that great saga of how so many brilliant people got it so wrong in Vietnam:

“War is far too horrible a thing to drag out unnecessarily. It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay.

“No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.”

Unfortunately for Obama, this decision is not above his pay grade. If we’re not in this to win–and it would be nice if we could quickly define “win”–not one more soldier should die in Afghanistan.

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