A sobering and highly convincing explanation (via Fallows) of why Obama is betting big on a hopeless cause. Not as hopeless as Iraq, I'd say, which is slowly unraveling on schedule, even with 130,000 US troops still sitting there. But pretty hopeless nonetheless.
It seems to me that the experience of the last few years helps us understand that the one thing that destroys both the Taliban and al Qaeda is giving them a chance to rule. And yet US policy is designed to prevent that from ever happening, to invade and occupy countries so that we keep the US (and not al Qaeda) as the enemy of the population, and to continue to send young men and women to die in two "countries" that have never been successfully governed, never been successfully occupied, and destroyed every imperial power before the US. I hope, I guess, that a miracle happens. It would be lovely if Iraq became a united constitutional democracy; ditto Afghanistan. But the one country in which America is now very popular is the one country we haven't invaded: Iran. Of course, that's why the neocons want to bomb it. Funny how that happens, isn't it?
All this would be interesting if the US had limitless resources, a booming economy and a solid financial base. But the US is now fatally, chronically, bankrupt for a generation at least - the way all over-reaching imperial powers become bankrupt. Washington is currently unable to do anything but spend money for special interests. Even a new president with big majorities can get nothing done on fiscal discipline except hold summits on it and propose reforms that will make things even worse. If he believes that the crippling debt of the next decade (let alone after) can be ameliorated by Orszag-style reforms in healthcare privision (however admirable they might be) he's more delusional than Cheney. In the end, Obama will have to decide if a country this utterly bankrupt has any business running a vast global empire that keeps expanding. He may be the last president with any ability to make such a decision, and callibrate it to America's advantage. After that, the global financial markets will decide it for us. At that point, it may come as a relief. As it did, in the bitter end, for the British.