As I have argued earlier, our Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, Iraq, war aims, if they are to be achieved, require Nation Building, which we have explicitly rejected as a part of our strategy. This creates a contradiction that simply cannot be overcome, no matter how much we wish it so. I am not the only person to notice this, nor the best expositor of the idea. This past week George Will pointed it out well. He also pointed out that Nation Building is very hard work, not least because it is not obvious how to do it or whether we or any other state, have available the resources required for success at the time we need them.
What follows is an excerpt and I have italicized key points. I commend the entire item to you which is available through the link below the quotation:
“Counterinsurgency, as defined by McChrystal’s successor, Gen. David Petraeus, and tepidly embraced by Barack Obama for a year or so, does not just involve nation-building, it is nation-building. This does not require just political acumen; it requires the wisdom of Aristotle, the leadership skills of George Washington and the analytic sophistication of de Tocqueville. But, then, the grinding paradox of nation-building is this: No one with the aptitudes necessary for it would be rash or delusional enough to try it. The McChrystal debacle comes as Americas longest war is entering a surreal stage: The military is charged with a staggeringly complex task, the completion of which — if completion can even be envisioned — must involve many years. But when given the task, the military was told to begin bringing it to a close in a matter of 18 months.
“The not quite seven months that have passed since the president announced his policy have seen sobering military disappointments and daunting evidence of how intractable is the incompetence and how manifold is the corruption of the Kabul government. For as long as we persist in this Sisyphean agony, the president will depend on forthrightness from a military commander whose judgment he trusts. That could not be McChrystal; it is Petraeus. If McChrystal had been retained, he would have henceforth been chastened, abject, wary and reticent. It is unthinkable that he could still have been a valuable participant in future deliberations with the president and his principal national security advisers. The president demanded, and the Americans in harms way in Afghanistan deserve, better.
“It is difficult, and perhaps unwise, to suppress this thought: McChrystal’s disrespectful flippancies, and the chorus of equally disdainful comments from the unpleasant subordinates he has chosen to have around him, emanate from the toxic conditions that result when the military’s “can-do” culture collides with a cannot-be-done assignment. In this toxicity, Afghanistan is Vietnam redux.”