Between the Lines

Annus Horribilis

The year 2010 was a depressing one in the foreign-policy world; the decline and fall of a world empire, no matter how well-deserved its fate, should be seen only as a tragedy.  The sheer scale of its fatal gigantism portends a Stentorian scream as it falls into the abyss—and we heard the first painful groans this year.

Afghanistan: Here on the central front of our endless “War on Terror,” the Taliban is fighting us to a standstill.  There’s only one way out, and that’s defining “victory” down and promising an eventual withdrawal.  Neither party in Washington has any use for the nation-building counterinsurgency strategy championed by Gen. David Petraeus, and as Republicans increasingly question this decade-long pursuit of Bin Laden’s ghost, the so-called COIN-dinistas are on the defensive in Washington—where the real battle over Afghanistan will take place.

Iraq: The laboratory of the COIN-dinistas, Gen. Petraeus’s Gaul, where the “surge” supposedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, is coming undone.  The general’s reputation as the best strategist since Julius Caesar is based on the great “success” of the Iraq war, which, in spite of it all, was “won”—thanks to the politico-military principle of “clear, hold, and build,” as encoded in the Pentagon’s official counterinsurgency manual, authored...

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