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I think absolutely everything Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying to say to European leaders about the central importance of NATO's mission in Afghanistan and the need for Europe to do more is correct. But what Gates needs to recognize is that realistically it's going to be hard to accomplish very much on this front until the United States puts some distance between itself and the Iraq War. Both politically and strategically, a deep European investment in Afghanistan just isn't going to be forthcoming as long as the U.S. remains politically and strategically invested in a hare-brained scheme to conquer the Persian Gulf.

My guess would be that Gates recognizes this on some level. But if he does, he needs to communicate that fact to George W. Bush and the other people who make the decisions.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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