President Obama invoked Vietnam four times in his Afghanistan “surge” speech at West Point on Tuesday, arguing that the two wars are different, and that “we have not lost” in Afghanistan. But pundits and analysts on both sides of the political spectrum aren’t so sure Afghanistan isn’t another quagmire. Is Obama sending 30,000 more troops to a war we’ve already lost? (Watch Sen. John McCain express support for Obama's troop escalation)
Obama can’t win this: Obama’s faith in the Afghanistan war won’t be enough to salvage it, says Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. Just like "Korea defeated Truman, Vietnam doomed Johnson, and Iraq put a dunce cap on Bush," Obama can’t "prevail in Afghanistan—not with another 30,000 troops," and not in 18 months, especially given the "isolationist stupor" our war-weary nation is slipping into.
"A novel way to argue for war"
Armchair quarterbacking is useless: Look, "I may believe Afghanistan to be an unwinnable quagmire that only cost lives and dollars with short results," says blogger Tom Watson, but I’m not the president. Obama is, "and now it’s his war." And we’d better hope he’s picked the right course, because "American interests and lives" are still in danger from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Why do we need to "win"? Count me "ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan," says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Even if we had the money, we were never going to "make Afghanistan into Norway." And we don’t have the money, "given our need for nation-building at home right now."
"This I believe"
Obama’s redefining success: "Obama’s strategy will not transform Afghanistan" from the "desperately poor, mainly illiterate, deeply traditional, xenophobic, and backward place" the Soviets invaded, then retreated from, says Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times, but "it may someday make that country safe enough to leave." And if that’s how we define success, Obama may—eventually—succeed.
"The reality of Afghanistan"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to survive a spaceship disaster
- Head to head: Wild vs. supermarket turkeys
Subscribe to the Week