The Campaign Spot

The Clock Is Ticking on Afghanistan

This weekend brought awful news from Afghanistan, and seemed to underline something I wrote last week:

Mr. President, sending additional troops to Afghanistan is a hard call, and you shouldn’t rush into it. But the situation doesn’t remain in stasis while you’re reviewing the options. If the situation is indeed deteriorating, then the outcome will be determined by not just by the arrival of additional troops but when those troops arrive . . . I have this nagging fear that the paralysis of analysis will endure just long enough for the president to determine that it’s too late for additional troops to make a difference.

A reader reminded me of these lines of dialogue from the old BBC series Yes, Prime Minister:

Sir Richard Wharton: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis. In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.

Sir Richard Wharton: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we *can* do.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.

Where are we, stage two or stage three?

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