Diana West

I watched McChrystal discuss his mission to further decrease civilian casualties in an online BBC video this week. "It's a balance for the young soldier on the ground who is in combat," he explained. "One of the assets that he has that might save his life might be air power or indirect fire from artillery or mortars and we don't want to take away that protection for him."

No, we don't, General. So why are we even talking about it? The lightly hinted implication -- that our troops may be called on to think twice about saving their own lives -- is chilling. He went on:

"What we want to do is build into our systems, and more importantly, build into the minds of all of our soldiers that everything that they do is important in this fight, and we're here to protect the Afghan people. And we're here to protect them from everything that can hurt them, both enemy activity but also inadvertent activity by Afghan forces or ours. So we're trying to build into the culture of our force tremendous sensitivity that everything they may do must be balanced against the possibility of hurting anyone."

Tremendous sensitivity is right. "The Afghan people are the reason we're here," McChrystal explained, weirdly disconnecting the American war machine from national interests. And to gain their "support," it seems the United States will do anything, even build potentially fatal hesitation into "the culture of our force," instilling possibly dangerous second thoughts into split-second decision-making. This way, these best and brightest of ours tell us, we will placate the trumped-up boogey-man of "civilian casualties," which is the sure-fire way, they promise, to win Afghan "hearts and minds."

"Victory in this conflict is about winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and engendering their trust," Brig. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of 5,000 airmen at Bagram Field, told the Air Force Times last week. "When the Afghan people trust us and believe us ... we will win this overnight."

Just don't anyone hold his breath.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).