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Is this the long-awaited definition of success?

Improving the Afghan government, McChrystal says -- particularly the effectiveness of its security forces and its ability to deliver basic services to the population -- is as critical as offensive actions against insurgents. He defines the defeat of the Taliban not as the moment when the insurgents are vanquished, but when the international community has built a strong enough Afghan government so that "the insurgency no longer threatens the viability of the state."

That sounds good. Except, I guess, for the fact that Afghanistan has never really had a government secure enough to confidently repel insurgencies. Instability and ethnic fractiousness are the norm, not some temporary affliction generated by the Taliban. Which means this is a bit like saying the definition of success is growing bananas in North Dakota. Bananas have never grown in North Dakota before*. Why should we imagine that we'll upend that history through sheer force of American know-how?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung have more analysis. The Washington Post has also obtained McChrystal's full strategy assessment, and it's up for download. (pdf)

*At least, I hope not.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 21, 2009; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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dear president obama

before you respond to general mcchrystal, please watch this youtube.

please do not put our country through another viet nam.

the polarization in this country today over health care, had its ideological lines drawn in that war. we still have not recovered.
if there is going to be nation-building, please let it be here in the united states.
our jails can hardly hold all of the people in this country who still dont have opportunities to an american dream. there is too much real suffering in this country, without embarking on a war that will destroy lives, increase suffering, cause even greater divisiveness in our country.
i think the greater dangers in this country now are within it, not across oceans.
please. americans are suffering.
please, no more news of roadside bombs killing troops on thanksgiving morning. no more requests for more soldiers and millions of dollars for a war in afghanistan.
no more people filling our streets with demonstrations of anger and frustration, that no-one is listening.
heal us first.
this country is in desperate need of help for our own people.
go for a walk through the streets of washington, dc one night.
let's try to win the wars here first.
please, no more suffering. we are not strong enough or united enough as a nation to endure another war at this time.
no more american blood shed in afghanistan.

Posted by: jkaren | September 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

and what is the timing of all of these terrorist plots??

three days before mcchrystal asks for more troops, a group of suspected terrorists are announced here.
this same thing kept happening in the bush administration.
we are about as "feared-out" as we can get with all of this stuff.
people wanting to blow us up, somebody in our best university doing reasearch, stuffed in a wall on her wedding, a general telling us we need more troops in afghanistan after what we went through in iraq.
no wonder half the country is on anti-depressants.

i think more americans are fearful about a trip to the emergency room without health care coverage, and losing a job right now.
the last thing we need is more news about young americans getting blown up, thousands of miles away from their families, in a cave, when we dont even know exactly what their mission is.
just my opinion, but i think this is just plain wrong.

Posted by: jkaren | September 21, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

If the problem is government stability, why is McCrystal asking for more troops to fight whoever he thinks he needs to fight?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | September 21, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Let's face facts. Billions (trillions?) in defense spending did not protect us from our enemies on 9/11. Billions more and 8 years of low intensity combat have not defeated the enemy. But if we just do this...

Enough already. It's a draw.

Posted by: Neal3 | September 21, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

i dont think anyone is going to be able to "sell" this war to the american people.
we already broke one country and had to buy it with blood and money.
no more.
we're broken. fix us.

Posted by: jkaren | September 21, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it somewhat misleading to describe the Taliban as "an insurgency?" Isn't their standing in Afghan politics (and parts of Afghan society) a bit sturdier than is implied by "insurgency?" Being able to counter an insurgency may be very different from being able to counter the Taliban.

Posted by: bdballard | September 21, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Tsk. Your google-fu has failed you. There are at least anecdotal accounts of North Dakota bananas

"Diann Beckman and some of her horticulture students presented North Dakota grown bananas to Governor Hoeven while they were at the Capital"

Your hopes are in vain!

Posted by: adamiani | September 21, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse


One correction on your post, "Except, I guess, for the fact that Afghanistan has never really had a government secure enough to confidently repel insurgencies."

Correction: Prior to 9/11, going back at lease 40 years or so, the US (and prior USSR) had undermined the development of any government in Afghanistan that could be strong enought to confidently repel insurgencies.

Posted by: Jaycal | September 21, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

"it will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."
robert fulghum

Posted by: jkaren | September 21, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

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