The approach amounts to "Afghan good enough" instead of an overly-idealistic "Afghan impossible," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In Washington and NATO capitals, there is now "more willingness" to reach an accommodation with middle and lower level members of the Taliban, as well as trying to peel away some senior figures if possible, he said.Or, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, the Taliban are part of the "political fabric" of Afghanistan. Continuing the sports/war metaphor, the Chair of the House Subcommittee that oversees Afghanistan, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens) told the New York Daily News
The strategy in which we're engaged is certainly not a slam dunk. We're doing the best we can with a bad situation with players that we don't - and didn't - have the expectation of being able to completely control."Meanwhile, back at the game, my table, a bunch of unAmerican types, joked about the End of Empire, but quietly, so as not to make the young men angry, but also so we wouldn't make them cry. After all, these beefy young men might be going to Iraq or Afghanistan. And even if they weren't, their friends were. It's one thing to lose a game; it's quite another to be killed in what is now being described as the Ignored War. At $6.7 Billion dollars a month, Afghanistan ought to be a source of pride and prejudice for these young men. Instead, like the game on the TV, everyone, even the people running the war know it cannot be won. With tens of thousands of casualties (even though the US media usually only counts military casualties, there are far more Afghan civilians killed every day than soldiers), this is not a war to be celebrated. And yet, like the US defeat at the World Cup, the best defense is a good offense. Soccer sucks. Who wants to play it anyway? Afghanistan? Let's either turn it into a real American style football match and kill the bastards or get the hell out of the game. As Ross Douthat points out in today's New York Times, there are apparently only two possibilities open to the US: soccer or football. If we continue to play soccer, we fight the counterinsurgency with strategic violence. If we play football, we kill indiscriminately and therefore "win."
This grim possibility is implicit in the Rolling Stone profile that undid Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week. Ostensibly a left-wing, antiwar critique of counterinsurgency, Michael Hastings’s article relied heavily on complaints that the current strategy places too much value on ... innocent Afghan lives. “In a weird way,” the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum pointed out, Hastings ended up criticizing counterinsurgency strategy “because it doesn’t allow our soldiers to kill enough people.”It's really too bad so much masculinity and patriotism is at stake in war and sport. Otherwise, the US government and the American people could think outside the football/soccer metaphor and see there are all sorts of other games. Like withdrawing all military and feeding the billions of dollars we're spending now on war to aid Afghan groups that support democracy in the region. But that might be too Ultimate Frisbee for the American jocks who run this country. And Ultimate Frisbee just doesn't have any balls.