General McChrystal is to be congratulated, it seems to me, for the candor and seriousness of his report to the president on what has gone so wrong in Afghanistan and what can be done to set it right. McChrystal's role is to find a way to win: he's a soldier fighting a war. And yet this hardest of hard-nosed military men essentially concedes that this is a political problem at its heart. You cannot fight a counter-insurgency on behalf of a government that is as corrupt as Karzai's. And you cannot fight a counter-insurgency without vast numbers of troops to protect a population in an extremely remote and ungovernable region. And you cannot fight either without tackling the real source of the terror - in Pakistan.
So we are left with this dire set of alternatives. We either pack up and go home. Or we double-down for a couple of decades to try to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, knowing that, even then, we cannot prevent any single Jihadist plot or attack coming from that region. The latest terror case reveals the threat:
What has troubled federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. is the belief that Mr. Zazi embodies what concerns them most: a Westernized militant, trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan, whose experience and legal resident status in the United States give him the freedom to operate freely, yet attract little attention.
How would doubling down in Afghanistan affect this kind of activity?