Afghan Inherency

This is the sort of moment that people write books about, a moment when the size of the personalities matches the scale of the stakes they’re wrangling over. The real question is whether this Democratic President and the military, symbolized by Petraeus, can make the adjustments necessary to live with each other. It seems obvious that Obama is going to have to be less coy with the public about what is really going to happen in July 2011, even if that risks alienating his party’s vestigial antiwar base. He is going to have to make it clear that “significant” troop withdrawals — a word bandied about in recent weeks — are not in the cards unless the situation on the ground changes dramatically, for good or ill. And Petraeus is going to have to reconsider whether the crown jewel in his tiara — the counterinsurgency doctrine — is really feasible in Afghanistan and what strategic modifications will have to be made in order to leave the place in the most stable, humane fashion.

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