The Afghanistan Chore

I hope this isn't a stupid metaphor, but Af-Pak is not unlike cancer. No one wants it, but I don't know how we can avoid dealing with it, or face more serious consequences. I don't want an increase in troops. I don't want more casualties. I don't want more spending when Congress is being miserly on domestic programs. I want the thing to end.

At the same time, however, we all know the Bush-Cheney administration made a series of historic blunders with Afghanistan. They let Bin Laden escape. They rushed to abandon the mission. They further destabilized an already unstable region -- a region in which there are several nuclear powers, one of which being Pakistan. The Taliban and others want those nukes and they can't be allowed to attain them.

I also understand that our failure in the 1980s to give the civilian population some kind of infrastructure and some kind of future after the Soviets pulled out eventually gave rise to al-Qaeda and this current situation.

So it seems like the president's plan for rapidly securing the region followed by a withdrawal beginning in 2011 seems to be a good enough way to confront these disparate problems. But make no mistake, this is chemotherapy -- this is a chore -- this is clean-up. It sucks. But I can't deny that there has to be a clean-up process.

And so I reluctantly support this plan with many, many concerns and caveats. Mainly, this has to remain a clean-up and not evolve into a reboot. If it becomes a reboot of the war, it will fail.