Until Americans — and in particular the Obama administration — can answer these questions, we will be walking blind into the unintended consequences of our actions. Until we can define what’s at stake in Afghanistan — define an attainable war aim, and define a consensus strategy for victory — we will be fighting a war without real direction, managed by a government at war with itself. Meanwhile, the June 2011 start date for our withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches relentlessly, setting in motion forces that could quickly take on an inescapable logic of their own.
The appointment of Gen. David Petraeus solves none of these problems. Petraeus was effective in Iraq because the vital U.S. interest at stake was so plain to see within the government; because we had defined an achievable war aim, and developed a rational strategy to attain it; and because he had the steadfast support of the president, and (though it was a close-run thing) just enough public support. But in Afghanistan, Petraeus is likely to have none of these things.
This should worry Obama, but maybe it doesn’t. He probably hasn’t taken much interest in the Korean War, and he appears quite withdrawn from Afghanistan already.
– Mario Loyola is a frequent contributor to NR.