Austin Bay

Strengthening local and municipal governments has been a U.S. and Iraqi government development objective since 2004, however. A "bottom up" model for consensus-building in Iraq may be another "deep trend." However, this is a slow process. Much of it is learn-by-doing, and learning by doing means accepting setbacks and failures. And that takes patience.

In mid-July, the London Daily Telegraph asked a "senior British official" to assess NATO's commitment to Afghanistan. He replied that he "feared that NATO might not have the "strategic patience" to fight for 10 years -- whereas the Taliban would fight on for 20 or 30 years."

Perhaps "strategic patience" is the phrase du jour -- but it describes an absolutely vital moral, intellectual and political virtue. The anonymous British official's 10-year estimate for sustaining the fight against the Taliban is a rough guess. No matter the numbers, what the official described is a fight spanning a generation.

Make no mistake -- it is a fight for the future, for the conditions of modernity.

Toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq created the opportunity for significant, positive, long-term change throughout the region. Now, the challenge is twofold: nurturing and supporting the incremental cultural, political and personal changes that make for societal change, and sustaining America's will to maintain that support.

For the surge to really work, the effort must be sustained.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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