I've sworn off predictions, having guessed wrong that a deeply apologetic Gen. Stanley McChrystal would keep his Afghanistan command. But what about GOP chairman Michael Steele? So far, at least as I write, he is weathering his own Afghan storm after dubbing the protracted counterinsurgency, President Obama's war -- as though the Obama policy were not in fact an extension and intensification of the Bush administration plan -- and then noting that history tells us war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.
But not always, as I learned after consulting Andrew Bostom's invaluable compendium, "The Legacy of Jihad." Turns out Islamized Turkic nomads came out on top, conquering the Hindu Kingdom of Kabul in the late 9th century, ending Hindu rule in Afghanistan with a victory that was, as a 13th-century-Indian-chronicler put it, "the result of treachery and deception, such as no one had ever committed."
That's one way to win. I have long argued that counterinsurgency's PC battle for hearts and minds (which Steele appears to be rejecting without articulating why) is, alas, not another. And what could we possibly get from a hearts-and- minds victory in Afghanistan -- another Iraq?
I'm afraid the answer is "bingo." Judging by the 99-0 Senate vote that confirmed Petraeus as Afghanistan commander last week, another Iraq is precisely what America wants, as though Iraq were an American "victory" worth the cost, human and monetary, of repeating.
It all depends on what the meaning of "win" is, a definition that includes pretty much anything in Iraq, even the shocking possibility, as noted by Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno, that United Nations forces might be needed to secure Iraq's oil-rich northern provinces after U.S. forces depart in 2011. Funny, I thought the United States fought a war about securing Iraq, or something. And funny, northern Iraq happens to be the neighborhood in which Petraeus, as commander of the 101st Airborne, first made his personal counterinsurgency mark back in 2003, 2004. A revealing Senate question for Petraeus last week might have been to ask him to assess how his policy of winning Iraqi hearts and minds (as exemplified by the posters he ordered up in 2003 in barracks asking "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO WIN IRAQI HEARTS AND MINDS TODAY?") has fared after all these years. Further, could there be anything about Islamic culture -- the institution of jihad, the animus toward infidels -- that is derailing his best-laid counterinsurgency plans in Iraq and Afghanistan?