Diana West

The whole nation-building endeavor, too, is just another COIN fantasy effort designed to make them like us. "Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors," Petraeus himself co-wrote in the foreword of the 2007 COIN manual (with Gen. F. James Amos, recently tapped to serve as the new Marine Commandant). "They must be prepared to help re-establish institutions and local security forces and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and basic services. They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law. The list of such tasks is long ..."

You can say that again. Better, though, for our elected representatives to have read just that statement back to Gen. Petraeus and to have asked for a reaction, a reckoning, his defense of a theory that, I would argue (and frequently do), has for years misused and abused the U.S. military through its willful ignorance of the Islam-West culture clash that forever dooms all of our do-gooding. The Great Society, it's worth recalling, didn't work here on our own people. It's no more plausible, even at ROE-controlled gunpoint, on an alien society.

History confirms this. The United States engaged in intensive Afghan nation-building between 1946 and 1979 -- specifically, in Helmand Province, now, ironically, a Taliban stronghold. In other words, the program was not, as Gen. Petraeus told the Senate this week, "hugely successful." For details, read Indiana University History professor Nick Cullather's 2002 paper, "From New Deal to New Frontier in Afghanistan," which is available online. It catalogues decades of failure apparent as far back as 1949. "If illusions doomed the project they also created and sustained it," Cullather wrote, summing up American denial on Afghanistan.

And for the ages.

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).