Luckily, we didn't have proponents of "armed social work" pulling the levers back then, commanders who today see in every Taliban redoubt lollipop-ready customers for micro-loans -- if, that is, the troops can only survive the booby-trapped house-to-house searches to complete the necessary paperwork.
Take Marjeh, for instance. An enemy stronghold in Helmand province that doubles as a hub of the opium trade and a manufacturing center for IEDs (which cause more than 80 percent of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan), Marjeh is a much-discussed potential target for incoming reinforcements.
This promises to be a moral if not a strategic blunder. If Marjeh is so vital to the American war effort it should be bombed into surrender or smithereens, whichever comes first -- not seized in a casualty-costly ground assault.
And even then, as the Washington Post notes, any Helmand Province "gains will be transitory if U.S. forces do not build effective local police forces and foster a government that is relatively free of corruption and able to provide for the Afghan people, U.S. officials said."
Is that all? Anything else U.S. forces should do while they're at it? "Build" Hamid Karzai into Abe Lincoln? "Foster" the Taliban into the Viennese boys choir?
"This will be a credibility test for the (Afghan) government to see if it can deliver," said a spokesman for McChrystal.
A credibility test. To see if the government can deliver. Using flesh-and-blood Americans as game pieces. This is sickening and sick.
Meanwhile, the U.S. claims it will enlarge the Afghan Army, now overestimated at 90,000 strong, to 134,000 troops, not by 2014 as projected, but by next fall. To that end, Afghan forces received a 40 percent pay raise, bringing pay "literally ... to parity with what the Taliban are offering," said one official.
Wait. Soon we'll be throwing in a signing bonus of 72 virgins.
Only don't forget the old saying: "You can rent an Afghan, but you can't buy him."
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