As Cause for Hope in Afghanistan, “Light at the End of the Tunnel” Has Lost Its Luster

At the Atlantic, Michael Cohen writes of President Obama’s Afghanistan speech:

For the first time in ten years, the light at the end of the tunnel of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is suddenly visible. . . . If there is one overriding takeaway from Obama’s speech . . . it is that the same President who 18 months ago was led by his generals into an escalation that he didn’t appear to fully support has now taken back control of his policy in Afghanistan. Right now, that means leading U.S. strategy down the path of de-escalation. As Obama said, this not the end of the war in Afghanistan, but it’s certainly the beginning of America’s effort to “wind down the war.”

No, not the beginning of the end, but, after almost 10 years, only the beginning of the beginning . . . someday the United States may reach the end of the tunnel of the war in Afghanistan. One can’t help but wonder, though, if the purpose of these excruciatingly long drawdowns, which the United States now seems to specialize in, is to ensure that before we reach the end of the tunnel, enough time will have passed to allow excavation of another out of peace’s impassive mountainside.

In other words, the long drawdown — to whatever extent it is one — seems less intended to leave the occupied state stabilized than to provide the defense establishment with a seamless transition to another war. We wouldn’t want them all standing around with nothing to do but drill or worry about future procurements, would we?

Continuing with Cohen, to upend another cliché — “idle hands are the devil’s tools” — what could be more demonic than this?

All of this suggests that the Obama administration is pushing the military away from a strategy of stabilization and pacification in Afghan’s most insecure regions . . . and toward a more limited counter-terrorism strategy. On the ground, this will likely mean [among other things] more drones [and] more special forces operations to eliminate high value targets.

One could be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that we’re countering terrorism “in like kind” (as they say of a response to a nuclear attack with an equivalent amount of nuclear weapons) with nothing but more terrorism.