For years, opponents of the Iraq war claimed it was an unwinnable waste of resources that wasn't worth fighting anyway. The real war against terrorists, they argued, should be waged in Afghanistan. But now that Iraq has made heartening progress and we are finally sending more troops to Afghanistan, the critics are applying to Afghanistan the same arguments they once used in favor of partial or total withdrawal from Iraq.
Afghanistan, we are told, is a hopeless quagmire. A Newsweek cover story screams "Obama's Vietnam." Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University writes, "Afghanistan will be a sinkhole, consuming resources neither the U.S. military nor the U.S. government can afford to waste."
Skeptics, including many in uniform, contend that we need to downsize our goals in Afghanistan. Establishing a functioning democracy, they say, is too ambitious in an underdeveloped Muslim country with little sense of nationhood. According to the Associated Press, a Joint Chiefs of Staff report advises "squeezing Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries inside neighboring Pakistan while deemphasizing longer-term goals for bolstering democracy."
But don't worry, the naysayers assert, we can still achieve our core objectives in Afghanistan. George Friedman, of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, opines in the New York Times that Afghanistan requires "intelligence, and special operations forces and air power that can take advantage of that intelligence. Fighting terrorists requires identifying and destroying small, dispersed targets. We would need far fewer forces for such a mission than the number that are now deployed."