Persisting with futility

A Wall Street Journal story today offers ammunition to both sides in the dispute over Obama’s controversial surge in Afghanistan. Matthew Rosenberg and Julian Barnes report that al Qaeda has returned to northeast Afghanistan in small numbers in an area which overextended U.S. forces withdrew from. For the moment, coalition strikes are keeping al Qaeda forces from “establishing too big or permanent a presence in Afghanistan.” Obama’s strategy, undercut from the beginning by a promise that this was the beginning of the end of the war, was apparently to inflict enough pain on the Taliban to force them to negotiate. Instead, hopes that al Qaeda and the Taliban would split appear to have come to naught.[1]

Assuming the veracity of this information, it is clear that Obama’s surge, with an originally promised withdrawal to begin in July 2011,[2] has failed to achieve its objectives. It is unreasonable to believe that a strategy which has so far yielded a worse situation than when begun over a year ago will over the next three months begin to yield the results that Obama claims to have intended.

But it seems impossible to effectively argue against a war ideology that an appropriate response is to acknowledge this failure. It seems impossible to consider that a wise response to violence does not necessarily entail further violence. And it seems impossible to suggest that Muslims may have legitimate grievances which impel some of them to extreme acts and which we should meaningfully address. The only possible response, it seems, is more war.

And if, as surely any intelligent observer must now concede, war cannot succeed, we must keep on fighting regardless.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “War is the first resort of a war criminal,”, December 1, 2009,; and Matthew Rosenberg and Julian E. Barnes, “Al Qaeda Makes Afghan Comeback,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2011,
  2. [2]Barack Obama, “President Obama’s speech in full,” Independent, December 2, 2009,

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