Diana West

But there was only silence on the part of lawmakers, the kind of lazy deference to military brass that inspired the British weekly New Statesman to publish an eye-catching cover story this week called "The Cult of the Generals." The piece argues that U.S. civilian leadership has abdicated its policy-making responsibilities to weirdly deified four-star generals (read: Petraeus). In a sense, Steele tripped this peculiar power circuit in his own bumbling way. There's an argument to be made that as chairman of the apparently pro-COIN GOP, that's not his job. But that doesn't absolve the rest of us, and particularly not our elected leaders, from joining the debate over COIN strategy, with its grossly unrealistic goals and unconscionable methods, and its failure to enhance American national security. After all, even an "Iraq" in Afghanistan would do nothing to neutralize Iranian and Pakistani nukes, the signal threat to U.S. interests in the region (so long as we control our points of entry against immigration and travel from the region, at least for the duration). The war doesn't make sense.

Maybe that's the case because we are so vague about what constitutes American interests -- even threats thereto. In his Fourth of July letter to forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus described the enemy as being "those who embrace indiscriminate violence and transnational extremists." Sorry, but that's loosey-goosey enough to include certain pit-bull owners and Greenpeace activists. "Together with our Afghan partners, we must secure and serve the people of Afghanistan," Petraeus continued, sounding that disconcerting (especially on Independence Day) non-American refrain of what you might call the "transnational extremists" of the COIN world. "We must never forget that decisive terrain in Afghanistan is the human terrain."

Haven't we been down this road before?


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).