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Two Friedman Units Later in Afghanistan

By Matthew Yglesias on September 3, 2009 at 12:58 pm

"Two Friedman Units Later in Afghanistan"

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There’s a lot going on in Helene Cooper’s article on how Barack Obama will mostly be relying on Republicans to support an escalation in Afghanistan if that’s the direction it goes. At any rate, this sort of thing keeps popping up in reported accounts of the administration’s thinking on Iraq:

The debate over Afghanistan will play out in the coming weeks, as the military decides whether to ask for more troops; commanders in Afghanistan have already said their forces are insufficient to get the job done. Mr. Obama himself must decide whether to make a more public push for a deeper United States commitment. Administration officials say privately that they believe that they have 12 months to show significant progress in Afghanistan before they totally lose public support.

I wish one of our crackerjack reporters here in DC would try to get these “administration officials” to explain how this interacts with their recent embrace of “war of necessity” rhetoric. I can see a few possibilities:

— Since this is a war of necessity, they intend to keep fighting it even if there’s no progress after 12 months, so if there isn’t progress they’ll try to mislead the public into thinking there is.

— If there’s no progress after 12 months, they’ll bow to public pressure to withdraw even though that would mean “losing” a “war of necessity.”

— The same officials who privately say the war effort may collapse in 12 months also “privately” know that this talk about a “war of necessity” doesn’t make sense, but they’re using the rhetoric anyway in order to bolster public support right now.

— The relevant officials are supremely self-confident about their own abilities, and just haven’t bothered to think about Plan B in case they’re unable to deliver significant progress over the next twelve months.

Maybe I’m missing something. Of the options on the menu, I guess I’d find option three the least distressing. But if that’s what’s going on, I’d certainly hope the administration will take a deep breath, try to look at the big picture, and recognize that whatever they want to do in Afghanistan they ultimately only make everything worse by offering overblown rhetoric about the situation.

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