The Graveyard of Empires

On September 10, 2009, Matthew Hoh resigned from his post as the senior State Department official in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan.  In his resignation letter, he wrote in part,

I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. . . . Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure. . . . Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations.

In his penultimate paragraph, Hoh notes, “We are mortgaging our Nation’s economy on a war, which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come.”

The Obama plan, unveiled December 1, 2009, after months of deliberation, answered few of the concerns expressed in Hoh’s letter.  The President announced, “as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.”  However, the national interest has an expiration date: The troops will begin to return home after 18 months.  Leaders in the United States and abroad are questioning Obama’s strategy for a “war of necessity” that requires a complex political, social, and...

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