by Gary Farber
The amount of data is staggering. Key stories abound.
Let us start with death.
America caused this. It's a map of every Iraqi war-related death documented by the Coalition.
Hooray for freedom.
by Gary Farber
The amount of data is staggering. Key stories abound.
Let us start with death.
America caused this. It's a map of every Iraqi war-related death documented by the Coalition.
Hooray for freedom.
by Gary Farber
Except that who is responsible for Stuxnet is a mystery.
What we know is that it's incredibly dangerous. And it's at least possible it was targeted at Iran's nuclear program, perhaps the enrichment centrifuges in Natanz.
Cyber security experts say they have identified the world's first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target – a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant.
The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security experts now say Stuxnet's arrival heralds something blindingly new: a cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical world – to destroy something.
by guest poster Gary Farber.
How much is $50 billion?
That's how much the president proposes we spend:
[...] It calls for a quick infusion of $50 billion in government spending that White House officials said could spur job growth as early as next year — if Congress approves. [...] Central to the plan is the president’s call for an “infrastructure bank,” which would be run by the government but would pool tax dollars with private investment, the White House says. [...] Specifically, the president wants to rebuild 150,000 miles of road, lay and maintain 4,000 miles of rail track, restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system.
The White House did not offer a price tag for the full measure or say how many jobs it would create. If Congress simply reauthorized the expired transportation bill and accounted for inflation, the new measure would cost about $350 billion over the next six years. But Mr. Obama wants to “frontload” the new bill with an additional $50 billion in initial investment to generate jobs, and vowed it would be “fully paid for.” The White House is proposing to offset the $50 billion by eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
After months of campaigning on the theme that the president’s $787 billion stimulus package was wasteful, Republicans sought Monday to tag the new plan with the stimulus label. The Republican National Committee called it “stimulus déjà vu,” and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip, characterized it as “yet another government stimulus effort.”
Which sounds good to me, if not to you, but we can all agree that we don't want to "waste" money.
Even before the announcement Monday, Republicans were expressing caution.
“It’s important to keep in mind that increased spending — no matter the method of delivery — is not free,” said Representative Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican who is on a Ways and Means subcommittee that held hearings on the bank this year. He warned that “federally guaranteed borrowing and lending could place taxpayers on the hook should the proposed bank fail.”
Such concern might have come earlier:
I have a policy: avoid debating Israeli policy via blog. I have some experience with deeply-contested histories (obliquely referenced in my St. Patrick's Day post, below). Contested histories are nuancy. But the blog format isn't long enough, or interactive enough, to allow for any nuance. Reduced to spurts of 200 or 500 words, everyone becomes a caricature. And I'm not interested in debating, or being, a caricature.*
Obviously, with that lead up, I am now going to violate my policy in spectacular form. Moreover, for maximum effect, I'm going to violate my policy with a headline that is 100% certain to be misunderstood. (This is called assuming the risk, and then raising it one.)
We start with Abe Foxman of the ADL, who claims:
Israel should immediately battle a charge emerging in the US that its actions are endangering the lives of US soldiers, because it is a particularly “pernicious” argument that “smacks of blaming the Jews for everything,” Anti-Defamation League National Chairman Abe Foxman said on Monday.
Andrew Sullivan responds:
Reality is meeting a lobby. In Washington, that usually means the lobby wins. But this time, we are at war and America's vital interests are at stake. This will be a struggle - but that there is a struggle at all is progress in a way. I'd be more worried if no sparks were flying.
Two points need to be made here. First, it is not clear that Foxman is responding to Gen. Patraeus' recent testimony. That linkage is assumed by Sullivan, Yglesias, and Ackerman -- and then deployed for maximum effect -- but it's not in Foxman's reported comments. Rather, it seems more likely from the context that Foxman is responding to Biden's comment last week. Biden's off-the-cuff statement was a good deal stronger than Patraeus' prepared testimony (and Biden may have been misquoted).
The second point, however, is possibly more important. Sullivan frames this debate as "Reality is meeting a lobby [e.g., AIPAC]." Let's be perfectly clear on one point: The most powerful lobby in Washington is not AIPAC, Abe Foxman, the Weekly Standard, "neocons," their allies, or any combination of the foregoing. The most powerful lobby in Washington is the United States Military. And it's not even a close call.
That is the true import of Patreaus' measured statement. If the Department of Defense concludes that a particular Israeli strategy is likely to injure or kill US troops, no one on Capitol Hill is going to stand up for that Israeli strategy. No one will argue that a settler should build a new home in East Jerusalem at the expense of an American life. That game is over. No number of faxes will change it. And everyone knows it, which is why any gentle pressure from Patreaus will alter US policy more than the harshest words from the usual combatants.
Whether you find this terrifying or exciting depends on your views on the Netanyahu's current governing coalitiation. And, perhaps, your views of Gen. Patreaus.
Finally, for what it's worth, I think that Jeffrey Goldberg's reporting has been spot-on throughout these recent contretemps. I also think that Goldberg is absolutely correct that Obama's long-game is to force Netanyahu to ditch the far right parties that make up his coalition. A goal that I support, by the way. (Indeed, my second policy is: The first thing to do is, ditch the crazies.)
*The exception to my first policy is Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has somehow found and/or created a way to talk about complicated things on a blog.
by Robert Mackey
Mark Mazetti's newest article on the suicide bombing that killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, "U.S. Saw a Path to Qaeda Chiefs Before Bombing, " has this interesting tidbit worth considering:
"Mr. Balawi proved to be one of the oddest double agents in the history of espionage, choosing to kill his American contacts at their first meeting, rather than establish regular communication to glean what the C.I.A. did — and did not — know about Al Qaeda and then report back to the network’s leaders."
That did make me think about what sort of threat AQ really is.
These guys...are idiots. Bear with me a moment.
The greatest double agent in history was, in my opinion, Mr. Juan Pujol. Mr. Pujol was a nobody in 1939 Spain. He held a grudge against both the Nazis and the Soviets, due to the butchery that was the Spanish Civil War. Consequently, he decided to become a spy for Great Britain when World War II began. Being a completely untrained spy, he calmly went to the British embassy in Madrid and offered his services. What Mr. Pujol did not know was that, in intelligence terms, he was the least likely person to be recruited for spying--a "walk-in." The British rejected him.
Juan was far from dismayed. Instead, he offered his services to the Germans in hopes of building up information that then he could then present to the British, who would surely hire him at that point. The Germans, who operated one of the most efficient spy networks in Europe under the protection of Franco, quickly recruited him. However, Juan was presented with a real dilemma. He told the Germans that he traveled to the UK on a constant basis and could provide shipping and other information to them. He did not, and did not know how to get himself to the UK to gather such information.
So he lied. A lot. And the Germans believed it completely. You see, Juan Pujol was a natural storyteller, one of those people who could not only lie convincingly but could create a believable story from his own imagination. Pujol's 'spy network' soon reached dizzying proportions--from disgruntled sailors in Glascow to an American sergeant in England. All were invented. When he again approached the British in 1942, they were both stunned and elated. The Germans believed everything he told them, paying him a hefty sum in "traveling expenses" and for bribes. Pujol was an Allied patriot--he reported the money and turned it over to his British handlers.
For Pujol, his big day was that of many others in Western Europe in the 1940s--June 6,1944. D-Day was Pujol's greatest victory. Because of him, and the British and American intelligence officers in the UK who were fooling the Germans, the Nazis believed that nearly 75 Allied divisions were in Great Britain. These 'extra' divisions resulted in Hitler demanding the defense of the Pas de Calais until July, 1944. Even as Allied troops liberated Paris, Hitler and his generals refused to pull troops off of the defense of potential invasion sites, from Norway to Spain.
For his reward, Juan Pujol was given the Iron Cross, First Class, by the Nazis. And was awarded the MBE by the British Government. He kept his secret until the 1980's, when the story of a spy called GARBO was finally told.
What does this have to do with the death of CIA agents by a suicide mole?
Everything. Juan Pujol was the perfect double agent. He kept his side informed, planted disinformation in the minds of his enemies, and literally shortened World War II by nothing more than creating an imaginary spy network. Al Qaeda, in stark contrast, decided to go through all the effort to get an agent into the American intelligence network, place that agent in a trusted position, and then...have him blow himself up.
That fact alone demonstrates the complete incompetence of not only the American ability to vett potential agents, but of Al Qaeda to plan and run a complex intelligence operation. Instead of having an 'inside man' to pass information to the terrorist group, they had their one guy on the inside blow up a bunch of co-workers. Imagine that you work for a software corporation that wants to get someone on the inside of Microsoft. They recruit and train you, get Microsoft to hire you. Instead of having you steal the code to the next version of Windows...they have you steal a couple of boxes of printer paper from the mailroom. You are caught and fired. But hey, Microsoft is really scared now, aren't they?
While it is obvious that the CIA needs to work on how it recruits its assets, it also needs to consider the amateurish approach that AQ took in this situation.
Imagine what the impact would have been had the bomber waited to do his deed for a high profile visit by General Petaeus, CIA Director Panetta, or even President Obama on a visit to the troops. Or if they had just quietly watched all the actions the Americans were taking for years before they were finally discovered.
Then again, maybe the CIA would have given him a medal by that point.
by Robert Mackey
A post I did a few days ago on the argument for manned nuclear bombers, much like any freewheeling discussion on most blogs, soon turned to an interesting cul-de-sac of discussion on the nature of warfare, those whose job it is to both fight and conduct warfare (two quite different things), and what defined a combatant and non-combatant. I'd like to address the latter and will discuss the former over the next few days. Comments are always welcome!
The idea of just war, as most of you are well aware, began in the early Christian Era in the West, by old St. Augustine. No need to ride that old pony for much, other than to note that the idea of war for something other than greed is a relatively new concept in human history. Of course, like any other good idea, all it takes are a few greedy men to find the loop holes and discover new and interesting ways of making a pacifistic religion into a tool for conflict (see the Crusades and the Thirty Years War for details).
My doctoral work, along with my first book, The UnCivil War, focused several chapters on the outgrowth of the just war concept--the treatment of captured prisoners of war. In my case studies, I found that officers in the Union Army ran into a very large, and very difficult problem at the beginning of the conflict: What do you do with captured 'unlawful combatants?' Federal troops were capturing guerrillas who ostensibly were part of the defense forces of the Confederacy, but did not possess uniforms, flags, and other accouterments of conventional armies, and tended to fight using the method of the irregular warrior--ambush, hit-and-run raids, and waylaying small groups of stragglers--all of which were anathema to the Union Army leadership. If this sounds familiar to anyone who has happened to keep track of world events since 2001, good for you--it is literally the same problem and issue. How do you define a combatant and a non-combatant?
The solution was found in Lieber's Code, published in the Union Army as General Orders Number 100, in 1863. Francis Lieber was the most famous jurist of his time, and in a letter to General Henry W. Halleck, outlined the concepts of the legality of war, the status of combatants, and the responsibility of a capturing nation to provide for prisoners. Lieber was a Unionist and saw that the Civil War was an illegal war, in the fact that that the Confederate States had no right to secede. Yet, he did not allow that factor to determine the combatant status of the 'detainees.' In fact, he pressured Halleck (and President Lincoln) to treat captured Confederate soldiers as prisoners of war, when under international law and practice of the time they could have been legally executed as rebels. For those of you who dismiss such activities, I'd like to point out the punishments given out to Irish rebels in the uprisings of the same era, by the much more 'civilized' British government, not to mention the British reaction to the Indian Mutiny.
General Orders 100 basically formed the basis of the law of land warfare, and later the Hague and Geneva Conventions. It defined different categories of armed combatants--from legal combatants (uniformed soldiers), legal non-combatants, and a new category of irregular soldiers, the partisan. For those of you who remember old newsreels (or watch the History Channel), you can see partisans operating under the Free French in during the liberation of Paris in 1944. The wearing of an armband depicting the Cross of Loraine and the Tricolor, and the carrying of arms openly, meant that this person was a legal combatant, and eligible for treatment as a POW. Strangely, even some German units recognized this (while others, such as the Waffen SS, would shoot anyone if given the chance, even uniformed Allied POWs, such as the hundreds of captured Americans executed at Malmedy in 1944) and treated them as POWs. The result of Lieber's Code, the idea that a person captured on the battlefield has the right to be protected, brought to an end the ancient practice of enslaving or murdering your captives. This, as much as the concept of Just War, brought some semblance of sanity to the conduct of that most insane human activity, warfare.
Of course, the Bush Administration happily ignored nearly 200 years of jurisprudence on the subject and invented an new category, the "illegal combatant," to allow them to hold "detainees" at GTMO indefinitely. As an aside, I was on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during that time, and gave a copy of my book to one of the Office of Secretary of Defense lawyers working the issue. I don't think it did any good, but we all do what we can at times.
What does any of this do the concept of Just War?
The idea of Just War was based on Christian theology, aimed at ending conflict between Christian states in Europe. Fighting the unbeliever, the infidel, or the sectarian was quite all right under that concept. The rise of liberalism, secularism and popular democracy brought into question the very idea of legal conflict. Men, not gods or their priests, suddenly had the ability and the responsibility to make rational judgments on the idea of what is right or wrong in regards to warfare. While nationalism and imperialism did (and still does) much to encourage conflict between states, rational human beings took a great step forward to maturity by saying "we will not execute those who surrender."
As Guantanamo Bay closes down, let us not forget that these 'detainees' are one of two things--they are either prisoners of war, combatants taken in arms against the United States and its allies, or they are criminals under international law, guilty of crimes against not only the Coalition Forces, but against the nation where they were captured or even against the international community as a whole. If they are the former (POWs) then they must be protected under the Geneva Convention. This means they cannot be tried for 'war crimes' conducted while under arms. They cannot be paraded for public view and humiliation. They cannot be denied their religious practices. They cannot be interrogated after processing and internment. Lastly, they must have a process for repatriation back to their nation of origin.
If they are determined to be criminals--what has been the basic argument of both the Bush and Obama administrations--they must have their day in court. If the crime was against US forces, they must be given the entire body of US laws to protect their individual rights. A right of trial by jury. The right to face their accusers. The responsibility of the government to present clear evidence. The right to appeal and to have adequate counsel. If the crime was committed against or in another country, then that country has the right to try them, just like we would do with any normal crime (e.g., extradition). If the crime was against the international community, then use the Hague Court for the trial.
Regardless, the concept of Lieber's Code still holds true--the capturing nation must guarantee the safety and protection of the captured combatant at all costs. It is the very basis of international law and treaty, and the release of a suspected 'terrorist' is nothing in comparison to the long term loss of one of the few successful safeguards against the horrors of war.
When I was a kid, I remember watching Dr. Strangelove for the first time. Being a male and having grown up in a household filled with World War I, World War II, Korea and (later) Vietnam veterans, I thought the coolest thing in the world were the scenes showing a thundering B-52 flying over the USSR and "Johnny Comes Marching Home" playing in the background [and for those of you who see this as some militaristic weirdness, rest assured, I was about 7...and I think nearly all seven year old boys think large objects that blow stuff up are pretty cool...].
When I read John Berry's Newsweek article "Bye-Bye Bomber", I was fairly shocked to see that members of the Air Force lobbying group (the Air Force Association) and Secretary of Defense Gates were both in favor of eliminating the nuclear role currently held by manned B-52 and B-2 bombers. Why? Well, in two words: Expense and "love of the Drone."
Bombers are expensive. The $2 billion or so spent on each B-2 is a
What is "the Love of the Drone." Sounds somewhat like a bee porno movie. No, this is what I call the love affair that the
Actually, there is a lot that drones cannot do. They cannot fly uninhibited into hostile territory like a manned bomber. Simply put, the nature of modern air warfare (jamming, counter jamming and so on) requires airframes that can carry a substantial load of electronic equipment. Drones, as currently built, just aren't big enough. Most are not even protected from small arms fire, from jamming, or from interference from their live-video feeds. They may be cheap, but so are smoothbore cannon. I don't see anyone saying we should replace modern field artillery with a 12 pound Napoleon from the Civil War--cheap doesn't matter when the system simply cannot get the job done. Just remember what Momma taught you..."You can get cheap or you can get good."
My biggest argument for manned nuclear bombers isn't even their multi-role capability (e.g., they can drop conventional bombs, use cruise missiles, or even drop leaflets). No, it is political.
Military planners often forget that nuclear weapons are not really "weapons" in the conventional sense. They are political tools, created and employed for political means. They are Clausewitz in concentrated form. Consequently, you have to examine the political uses of nuclear weapons before any other consideration, to include cost and ease of employment.
A manned bomber can be prepped, armed, manned and sent off an airbase in a matter of hours. In those hours, diplomats can let a potential adversary know that the
And neither land-based nor sea-based missiles can be recalled. Once launched, they are gone. The nature of submarine warfare and the security of missile sites in the
In short, it is the ICBM that is obsolete--it is a relic of the Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction. I'm all for a handful of failsafe missiles on Trident submarines; they would serve as a final deterrent. But put men and women in the airplanes, capable of making decisions, listening to orders, and able to be recalled to base when an unexpected peace breaks out.
Either that or just get rid of them all. Short of full nuclear disarmament, however, I'd prefer Slim Pickens flying in a recallable bomber than two guys in a silo in
by Lindsay Beyerstein
The tiny nation of Tuvalu has taken center stage in Copenhagen.
"I woke up this morning crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit," Tuvalu's chief climate negotiator, Ian Fry, told hundreds of delegates in the Bella Center in Copenhagen on Saturday. "The fate of my country rests in your hands," he said, his voice breaking. Global warming is an existential issue for Tuvalu and other small island nations. If global warming goes unchecked, these countries will literally be wiped off the map. For countries like Tuvalu, COP15 is effectively referendum on their continued existence. Will the rest of the world step up, or will it write them off?
Tuvalu and its supporters want a treaty to protect island states. They also seek legally binding emissions targets for all countries geared to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. Last week, Tuvalu managed to get the negotiations suspended while delegates informally considered its proposal.
Obviously, it's not just in Tuvalu's interest to get serious about climate change. According to a report released last week, even if we check warming at 2 degrees, the rise could still acidify the oceans enough off most cold water coral, the bedrock food chains that help feed millions. The prospect of entire countries and low-lying regions being inundated raises the specter of mass migrations.
During the aftermath of the Iranian election, supporters sported green twitter icons to show their support for the protesters. In that spirit, I decided to change my twitter icon to an "I heart Tuvalu" button. The picture is from Tuvalu's official Cafe Press store. Join me!
If it wasn't obvious from yesterday's post, my mood regarding Afghanistan has been a bit "Charge of the Light Brigade" recently. "All in the valley of death rode the six hundred" and all that rot. I'm not quite that pessimistic, of course. I think that there is a chance that we'll succeed. Maybe a good chance, if we define success low enough. But the problem is that any success we get is unlikely to look like the kind of success that we want.
So my support for President Obama's strategy -- indeed, for an even greater commitment of troops than he authorized -- is not based on the thought that we might "win" this one. I support the strategy because the alternatives are much, much worse.
I see a lot of the same resigned support in Andrew Sullivan's post of this morning:
I think this strategy is doomed. But then I think any strategy that does not pledge to colonize Afghanistan, pour trillions of dollars into it and stay for a century is doomed. So why do I end up this morning feeling rather similar to my colleague, Jim Fallows, who simply sighs: 'Well, I hope he's right"?
Here's why. The sanest option - leave now - would leave allies high and dry, prompt domestic cries of surrender, demoralize the military, break a clear campaign pledge, and signal to Pakistan that the Taliban is their problem now. Everything but the latter are worth avoiding.
Sullivan is even more pessimistic than pessimistic me, but, then, he's a English Catholic. That's a whole different order of pessimism: He probably views the Charge of the Light Brigade as a delightful romp through a sun-filled valley of flowers. It strikes me that his definition of sanity, however, is a little strange. If the leaving Afghanistan now "would leave allies high and dry, prompt domestic cries of surrender, demoralize the military, break a clear campaign pledge, and signal to Pakistan that the Taliban is their problem now," that is not the "sanest option."
Moreover, Sullivan hasn't even touched on the best reasons why we shouldn't "leave now". Sullivan notes that "Al Qaeda is based in Pakistan, not Afghanistan." What he doesn't note is why: Al Qaeda is now based in Pakistan because we're in Afghanistan. How long after we leave before they come back? A lot of ink is spilled on how chaos Afghanistan might affect Pakistan. That worry is justified. But Afghanistan also sits near several key energy pipelines. Even if Pakistan is unaffected by an imploding Afghanistan, the fires may light other vital interests. And what of the Afghan people? We can barely deliver social services or improvement dollars now; how are we going to do it when there are no foreign troops providing security? We can barely find and kill al Qaeda with extensive, in-country support force. It will be harder -- much harder -- to conduct the kind of special ops war that some on the left prefer without that support.
True, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are unlikely to topple the Afghan government at the moment. But the government is weak. All bets are off should we leave. We should not be willing to see the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies come back to power. The danger of another attack is too great; the signal sent is all wrong; the price for 9/11 should be greater.
The situation is bad. But the costs -- the blood and treasure, lives and lucre -- that got us to this point are sunk. We can't get them back. The choice now is between bad and worse. President Obama leveled with you last night, and he chose bad. That was the right move. He deserves your support.
By the way: A lot of Republicans support Obama's plan, but are pushing back against his deadline for withdrawal in 2011. I understand the argument against the deadline, but I think these Republicans miss the bigger picture. There is no popular support for an open-ended commitment, either in the US or abroad. Without a deadline, there is no surge and no chance to convince allies to aid us. Obama's surge does not exist without a deadline.
UPDATE: What if Obama's surge doesn't work? What if it gets worse, not better? My tentative, working answer is: we lost, then. Completely. Like the Russians before us.
After his listening tour, it's likely that President Obama will order more troops to Afghanistan. Not as many as General McChrystal sought some months ago; yet, many enough for one of my compatriots to gnash is terrible teeth, roll his terrible eyes, and generally go Maurice Sendak on ya'll.
Perhaps Eric Martin is right: None of us is an expert in this field, a distinction shared with, well, the experts in this field. Which is to say that there are no experts in the field of complete chaos; the subcontinent; the dispossessed. There are only a few who know enough to be stupid, and many more willing to pretend (and thus be truly dangerous). Obama, Biden, Clinton, McChrystal, and Patreaus. There's irony to come in this piece, but I'd add Eric Martin to that list without any: I frankly trust his judgement as much as any of the foregoing.
But, really, who are we? Dilettantes, who have no f_cking clue what we're doing.
I mean that with the greatest respect. A lot of these folks are smart and know a lot about a lot of things; foxes who are good enough to fake it when they meet hedgehogs. Smarter, even, than me. (Heaven forfend!) They're trying, but some problems are a little too hard. The Brits of the East India Company hedgehogged more of the relevant ley-lines than we'll ever hope to, but still ended up with Midnight's Children. Who are, sixty years on, still trying to get home.
Midnight's Children. I've been rambling, but I'll stop here. The partition of India and Pakistan is the problem that we are dealing with in Afghanistan. The British did the best they could when they beat their hasty retreat from the subcontinent. The Gandhis did the best that they could when they won and then ruled. We did the best we could in Charlie Wilson's War .... but, Wolverines! didn't translate well into Pashtun.
The partition is why Pakistan devotes unGodly sums to not-quite-match its much larger rival in arms. The partition is the cause of Pakistan's military-industrial complex (correctly diagnosed by Eric, below). The partition is why Pakistan makes deals with devils of varying kinds, including Talibani of both Afghani and Pakistani descent. Unity would have been worse, but that don't mean that partition doesn't sweat the donkey balls. (An old saw that Kierkegaard once invoked whilst reading a Tarot deck.) (I swear!)
You want candid? I don't think that 34,000 more troops will be enough to fix this. I think that the 40,000+ more troops requested by McChrystal months ago might have been better, but I still don't think that even this number would've fix this.
Unlike Eric, however, I think that we have to try.
Why? Because the dilettantes -- the ones who agree with me, at least ;-) -- do know more than us. Because there is still a chance. Because no one has yet explained how withdrawing from Afghanistan makes Afghanistan stable. (Where is that whitepaper? I, and several hundred thousand Afghanistanis, are dying to read it.) Because no one has yet explained how we fight the Taliban if the Afghani government turns against us (or disappears). Because, like the partition in the subcontinent, there are fates worse than the status quo. Because there is still a chance. Because the Afghanis and Pakistanis who want us to leave Afghanistan -- who promise us that we'll be loved and admired for doing so -- don't necessarily have our best interests at heart. Because this was always going to be slow. Because there is still a chance. And because we made a promise to the Afghanis, which doesn't get voided just because we'd like so much for it to be so.
You remember that promise, right? You probably made it, like I did, sometime in the winter of 2001. When every day was colder than the last. When every day was shorter than the last. When winter climbed up the beaches and you smoked cigarettes in dive bars in Alphabet City and wrote dreadful poetry about winter climbing up on beaches. (You know you were there, back when you could still smoke in New York.) You resolved that, this time, we would not just destroy; we would rebuild. We would try, at least.
Well: Here's your chance to finally fulfill one of your resolutions. It's probably the last one, at least for this war.