In Command

Also see:
Man Versus Afghanistan by Robert D. Kaplan
The Atlantic , April 2010

Not only are McChrystal and his team determined to battle against fate in the form of the Taliban, but they do so in the firm belief that they will get Afghanistan onto the crooked and murky path of development. "We know what success tastes like, from Iraq; we're a team that has won national championships," declared Flynn, who was with McChrystal in JSOC. In The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), about the struggle to stabilize what is today the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderland, Winston Churchill posits that a great nation has three choices: to turn a country like Afghanistan into a replica of British parliamentary democracy, which he says is clearly impossible; to withdraw completely, which he says is also impossible; or to work with the tribes and the material at hand through a variety of means. McChrystal, who told me he was halfway through the book, agreed that the third choice--Churchill's choice--is really the only one we have.

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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