Led by a conflicted president of a divided party and nation, America is deepening her involvement in a war in its ninth year with no end in sight.
Only one parallel to Barack Obama's troop decision comes to mind: the 2007 decision by George W. Bush to ignore the Baker Commission and put Gen. David Petraeus in command of a "surge" of 30,000 troops into Iraq.
That surge succeeded. Baghdad was largely pacified. The Sunni of Anbar, heart of the resistance, accepted Petraeus' offer of cash and a role in the new Iraq. Together, Americans and Sunni began to eradicate al-Qaida. In July, the surge ended and U.S. troops withdrew from the cities.
In August and October, however, the Finance, Justice and Foreign ministries were bombed. The Sons of Iraq now say the Shia government reneged on its pledge to pay their wages and bring them into the army.
Jockeying in parliament for the inside track to power in January's elections may force a postponement of the elections, and of the U.S. timetable for withdrawal. Kurds and Arabs are battling over Kirkuk. Iraqis seem to be going back to fighting one another.
What hope can there be then for a U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan, a larger, wilder, less accessible, more backward country, whose regime is less competent and more corrupt than that in Iraq?
Conservative columnist Tony Blankley, who supported the Iraq war and surge, has come out against more troops in Afghanistan. His reasoning: Obama will be sending many hundreds of young Americans to their deaths and thousands to be wounded in a war about which he himself has doubts.
While it may speak well of Obama as a man that he has reflected, agonized, debated within himself and conducted nine war counsels with scores of advisers before acceding to Gen. McChrystal's request, what does this say of him as commander in chief?
Whatever one may say against George W. Bush, he was decisive. As was James K. Polk when he sent Winfield Scott to take Mexico City. As was Abraham Lincoln when he congratulated Gen. Sherman on his barbarous March to the Sea. As was Harry Truman, who ordered the dropping of an atom bomb to jolt Tokyo into accepting unconditional surrender.
One may condemn the wars these president fought. One may deplore their tactics. But they and the most successful American generals -- Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton -- were not Hamlets. They did not agonize over why they were fighting or whether it was worth it.