Joe Klein divulges the worst kept secret in Washington:
It seems obvious that Obama is going to have to be less coy with the public about what is really going to happen in July 2011, even if that risks alienating his party's vestigial antiwar base. He is going to have to make it clear that "significant" troop withdrawals a word bandied about in recent weeks are not in the cards unless the situation on the ground changes dramatically, for good or ill. And Petraeus is going to have to reconsider whether the crown jewel in his tiara the counterinsurgency doctrine is really feasible in Afghanistan and what strategic modifications will have to be made in order to leave the place in the most stable, humane fashion.
Coy? He wasn't coy. He pledged that withdrawals would start then and used the phrase exit ramps. Joe seems bullish on the new leadership but it merely convinces me that Petraeus' grip on military policy is now complete. The trouble is that his signature contribution - counter-insurgency - is not working in Afghanistan, because it lacks basic components - like a foreign Jihadist interloper, concentrated populations capable of being adequately policed, a credible central government, and an open-ended amount of time.
So my view is that this has made things far worse, that we are trapped there for ever, that Obama simply has not had the balls to get the hell out, and that the military brass - far from being brought to heel by Obama - now has the president by the balls for the war they want. That the brass is the thoughtful, Democratic-style, Petraeus version of neo-imperialism makes it actually more lethal for any chance of returning to limits in US foreign policy.
This is the entrenchment of late Bush, not the change we were promised. The Af-Pak occupation is Washington's latest war-machine, like the war on poverty, the war on drugs and the war on terror. It's a government program that cannot be stopped, cut or removed. It is now a permanent feature of the American state.