Out of the Mouths of Pundits

I live a life of intrigue. I spend my Saturday evenings watching “Inside Washington” and “The McLaughlin Group.” Really. On the former, syndicated cynic Charles Krauthammer just puts me on the floor. Guests normally make valid, unemotional points, though columnist Mark Shields loses it on occasion.

Recently, the discussion turned to Afghanistan, and the four pundits agreed on several points. (Agreement is rare.) First, the U.S. could probably “win” (read: strong-arm, force resolution) this thing in Afghanistan with 500,000 uniformed fighters in the country. Nice idea, but they stated that simply was never going to happen.

Next, they noted that Afghan president Hamid Karzai (the best dressed man in Afghanistan, I say) is wheeling and dealing with his Taliban brethren (not news) but sans U.S. involvement. All agreed this could be very good as well as very bad for all involved. Everyone will have to wait and see how this tactic plays out for Karzai, who may be trying to rely less on the United States, both an asset and liability for him, and the people of Afghanistan.

In an odd exchange, guests agreed the most powerful man in the world (my interpretation) right now is Army Gen. “King David” Petraeus, head of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. By design or otherwise, President Barack Obama’s firing the former head of U.S. forces there, Gen. Stanley “Rolling StoneMcChrystal and tapping America’s darling, the youthful and ever gracious Petraeus has painted the president into a corner.

According to the guests, who also included National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg and The Washington Post’s Colby King, the commander in chief has rendered himself anything but.

Petraeus has become an unintentional alpha and omega, bringing the U.S. out of the Iraqi desert with similar hopes for Afghanistan. On top of all of this, the guy just underwent treatment for prostate cancer. So, America rests its hope on the sick guy. It sounds almost biblical.

Afghanistan is about Petraeus. The press is about Petraeus. The belief is Obama can deny him nothing. Afghanistan is Obama’s to lose and Petraeus’ to win. (Shades of Shakespeare?) Obama needs Petraeus on many levels. (My overstatement.)

The Petraeus-Obama pairing by “Inside Washington” seemed a leap, but it does not diminish the bleakness of the task. The U.S. window in Afghanistan may have been 2002-2003, maybe 2004. It is nearly 2011, and this seems a stagnant, costly union. Objectives still seem illusive. Courses of action appear as anything but. (Can anyone get a fix on the I-E-D challenge?)

If Petraeus is in a unique position, is that window of opportunity in Afghanistan half open?

Recent Posts