Peggy Noonan is a wonderful writer and I share, in large part, her realist impulses on foreign policy (I basically agreed with her critical take on the Bush’s second inaugural, for instance). But her column over the weekend was a little hard to take. She’s against dreaminess and for reality, and therefore ready, apparently, to quit the Afghan war. But here’s the reality in Afghanistan: We sent 30,000 additional troops to the country, where — at cost of life and limb — they have beaten the hell out of the Taliban in the South. The Taliban is trying to fight back. Would Peggy just let the Taliban take back its former strongholds? Or is she for extending America’s longest war? What is her favored end-state in Afghanistan?
She apparently considers fostering minimal competent Afghan security forces that can fight the Taliban and associated extremists on their own by the end of 2014 a goal too shot through with uncertainty and ambiguity. So what’s her more precise goal for a stripped-down war? Is she fine with letting the country collapse such that we don’t even have the wherewithal to continue to launch (deadly effective) strikes into Pakistan anymore? If not, how will she maintain our position without supporting the government from its enemies — i.e. continuing to fight the longest war? And if she is going to continue to fight, how many troops will it take for how long? Peggy has one of the best pens in the language and a bunch of column inches in the finest newspaper in the nation. As a devoted realist, surely she can do us the favor of grappling a little more with reality as it exists in Afghanistan.