Is That a Whiff of the Johnson Administration We're Smelling?

I haven't read the Wikileaks documents, or even much of the summaries of the Wikileaks documents, so I have nothing to say on this except to express the feeling I've had for several years, which is that Afghanistan is neither winnable nor particularly worth winning. I'll try to come up with something more original later. In the meantime, Jim Fallows has actual thoughts:

The Obama Administration policy I most disagree with was his decision late last year to double-down in Afghanistan. Although I am not an expert of Afghanistan, I opposed this choice it because everything I have learned about the world makes me doubt its central logic. That logic is: if we bear down for a limited time, in a limited way, that will make enough difference that we can then begin to leave -- rather than simply preparing to leave now. At first glance, these documents cast severe doubt on the idea that staying for another 18 months -- who knows perhaps another 18 years -- would truly "make the difference" in transforming Afghanistan.

The argument for bearing down is that the dangers of withdrawal are too great to allow any other option -- which of course was also the argument about Vietnam. As a matter of logic, we can recognize two extremes. Some causes are so vital that, even if they seem hopeless, there is no choice but to persevere. Eg: the RAF during the Battle of Britain. On the other extreme, some efforts are so hopeless that, even if they seem vital, there is no choice but to quit. Eg: the Confederacy at Appomattox, the Japanese emperor after the atomic bombs. At any point in between, it's a matter of balancing the hopes of success against the stakes. If "can we do it?" were no concern, it would obviously be better to keep the Taliban out of power and remove one possible base of Al Qaeda operation. But it's not obvious that the answer to "can we do it?" is yes. Indeed most recent news points the other way.
Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

The Man Who Owns 40,000 Video Games

A short documentary about an Austrian gamer with an uncommon obsession

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in National

From This Author

Just In