is that a threat or a guarantee?...,
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what invasion of iran?...,
afghanistan, in the river of our plans you're up the creek:
Anthony Cordesman argues that "the US and its allies cannot afford to lose two wars. If they do not act now, they will.". Barnett Rubin bangs his head against the same brick walls:
For decades -- not only since 2001 -- U.S. policymakers have underestimated the stakes in Afghanistan. They continue to do so today. A mere course correction will not be enough to prevent the country from sliding into chaos. Washington and its international partners must rethink their strategy and significantly increase both the resources they devote to Afghanistan and the effectiveness of those resources' use. Only dramatic action can reverse the perception, common among both Afghans and their neighbors, that Afghanistan is not a high priority for the United States -- and that the Taliban are winning as a result.
I remember seeing a BBC headline in February 2003 that's a fine illustration of why Afghans might think Afghanistan is not a particularly high priority. It read "Afghanistan omitted from US aid budget".
Let us turn back to Cordesman, harbinger of dismal outcomes and prophet of doom, in January 2003, "The Air War Lessons of Afghanistan [pdf]", page 94, immediately after a page and a half of describing the dismal situation in Afghanistan then:
The US government and Defense Department seem to have been only marginally more concerned with planning for conflict termination and grand strategic outcomes in Afghanistan, than they were during the Gulf War and the war in Kosovo.
This failure to give conflict termination the same priority as military operations, and grand strategy the same priority as strategy, is particularly striking because many senior officials in the present Bush Administration have been so deeply involved in trying to come to grips with the end result of a similar failure in the Gulf War and the survival of Saddam Hussein.
There is a similar irony in the fact that their legitimate criticism of the vacuous moral posturing of the Clinton Administration and the optimism and false promises surrounding the Dayton Accords and conflict aftermath in Kosovo has tended to be replaced by an equally vacuous effort to avoid being deeply involved in the aftermath of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is yet another warning that American war planners must plan for true victory, and not simply the defeat of enemy military forces.
The time – if it ever existed -- in which military planners could only plan for war is long over. In fact, it seems fair to say that war plans that do not include peace plans have always been signs of gross military incompetence. The fact that most post-conflict peace involves some form of prolonged occupation, peace keeping, and nation building may be unpopular, but that does not change the fact that military action cannot have satisfactorily positive lasting benefits unless the military (and their political leaders) are willing to pay the necessary price.
In war, more than any other human activity, no one should begin what they are not prepared to finish, and few modern wars will have outcomes where desirable
governments, economies, societies, and patterns of alliance magically occur simply because the fighting ends.
The officer who cannot adjust to this reality is unfit to wear his or her uniform. The political leader unwilling to face this reality is, at best, a recipe for military futility and, at worst, a recipe for disaster.
Cordesman thinks we can still "win", but he's been talkin to the walls for a long time. Maybe he's encouraged by the echo coming from Rubin's head banging against the same walls and mistaking it for the sound of somebody listening. I'll just stick to what I said a month before we started our second stupid landwar in Asia: I don't even know if it's possible, I don't think anybody does. It sure as fuck ain't happening with gumby and the block-heads in office for the next two years.
And while I'm on a flashback kick during a brief period of site mantainance, an application of the old maxim that hindsight is irony/irony: "future outcomes of a war on Iraq will be just as easily be explained by pure unprocessed stupidity as sinister market valuations of human life."
update: Jim gets a dig in: you can't really blame the media for "weakening America’s precious resolve and encouraging our enemies" in a country that recieves a level of coverage approximating zilch.