I already knew it was fiction–like the claim the Taliban are “losing momentum”–when I saw that a Canadian General had dismissed the jail break in Kandahar as “a setback . . . [that] won’t affect Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.” Then I saw this story on Voice of America, which states that “the jailbreak is being described as a major security breach,” and a story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network in which NATO admits the jail break was a “tactical success.” Juan Cole wrote that “the jailbreak spoke eloquently of the weakness and incompetence of the Karzai government, which many observers believe is in the process of collapsing under the weight of its own corruption.”
Canada, of course, has a problem. Its conservative government is losing popularity as it hews closely to the Bush administration line, even seeking to return U.S. soldiers who have sought refuge to avoid serving in Iraq. And every NATO (including Canadian) soldier in Afghanistan frees up a U.S. soldier for the illegal and unpopular war in Iraq. NATO countries, most of which failed to support the Iraq war, are accordingly less than enthusiastic about increasing their troop deployments.
But what I find truly astounding is this persistent notion that the military can minimize setbacks and exaggerate successes to sustain popular support. While it is too often true–as with the U.S. public in the Iraq and Vietnam wars–that a public fails to oppose a war until it is clear their country is not achieving a promised swift success, it does not follow–and I do not believe–that subsequent successes can turn opposition to that war into support.