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Should We Get Out of Afghanistan?

The Good War in Afghanistan, the one of which even liberal Americans used to say, “That one was necessary,” is becoming both increasingly deadly and unpopular. As General Stanley McChrystal outlines a new strategy that will likely ask for more troops, a CBS poll shows that more and more Americans are in favor of bringing them home. Joining them in that sentiment today is columnist George Will, who writes, “Genius … sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor … is squandered.” Many of his fellow conservatives couldn’t disagree more.

• Peter Wehner tracks Will’s shifting support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and concludes that it appears that when Will “marshals his eloquent and influential words on behalf of war, he will strongly support that war, but only for a season; only so long as it goes quickly, smoothly, and without complications.” In his column, Will doesn’t “even begin to grapple with what surrender in Afghanistan would mean — to that country, to Pakistan, to jihadists around the world, to confidence in America’s word and will, and to our national-security interests.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Fred Kagan disputes Will’s claim that counterinsurgency theory calls “for the deployment of hundreds of thousands of coalition forces for decades.” A surge of forces can bridge the gap until the Afghan Army is expanded. Factual errors aside, “waving the bloody shirt” and “rudely disparaging the efforts of allies who have shed their own blood alongside our troops” is “reprehensible.” [Corner/National Review]

• William Kristol says that “Will is urging retreat, and accepting defeat.” His proposed strategy — “America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan” — doesn’t seem “much more engaged than U.S. Afghan policy in the 1990s.” Instead, an effective counterinsurgency strategy can bring us victory there. [Post Partisan/WP]

• Rich Lowry believes that “if you think Afghanistan matters at all, something on the order of what we are attempting there now is necessary. If you think Afghanistan doesn’t matter and should be allowed to fall to hell, that’s another thing.” But there’s “no easy escape.” [Corner/National Review]

• Alex Koppelman doesn’t expect Will’s column to be “a Cronkite and Vietnam moment.” First, because there’s a “tendency on the left” to view Afghanistan as a “war of necessity,” and, second, because “Will doesn’t hold the sway he used to, because there aren’t many Republicans like him left.” [Ben Smith/Politico]

• Chuck Todd and friends say that a “determination not to make the same mistakes that were made earlier,” in the 1980s, is keeping Obama from giving up on Afghanistan, but “the choices for Team Obama certainly aren’t good: Double down on an increasingly unpopular war, or risk walking away from an unstable Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Joe Klein writes that “Will’s prescription is premature.” We have to wait to see what effects the election, more troops, and increased aid have on the country. Even if it’s a disaster now, we can’t leave yet, because “the U.S. has a real national security interest in Afghanistan” and “a moral obligation to the Afghan people.” [Swampland/Time]

• Isaac Chotiner thinks Will’s column is “worthy of further discussion” but wonders why he has to “throw in gratuitous swipes that make him seem like a Pat Buchanan-ite.” [Plank/New Republic]

• David Frum doesn’t agree with Will’s policy answer but agrees with much of what he says. “Will is right about the weakness of the Afghan state. He is right about the endemic corruption of the Afghan government. He is right about the country’s deep backwardness. He is right above all about the Zen unreality of the current mission: to prevent the reestablishment of al Qaeda bases.” [New Majority]

• Christian Brose says that the problem “is not that a counterinsurgency strategy has failed, but that is hasn’t really ever been tried. There are risks with either strategy, be it reinforcement or withdrawal, but I’d like to hear from the critics why their alternative is better in light of its likely implications, which to me seem pretty awful.” [Shadow Government/Foreign Policy]

Should We Get Out of Afghanistan?