"We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in," says Barack Obama of the U.S. war in Iraq. Wise counsel.
But is Barack taking his own advice? For he pledges to shift two U.S. combat brigades, 10,000 troops, out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, raising American forces in that country from 33,000 to 43,000.
Why does Barack think a surge of 10,000 troops will succeed in winning a war in which we have failed to prevail after seven years of fighting? How many more troops is he prepared to commit? Is the Obama commitment open-ended?
For, without any visible strategy for victory, Barack is recommending the same course LBJ took after the death of JFK. Johnson bombed North Vietnam in 1964, landed Marines in 1965 and built U.S. forces from 16,000 advisers on Nov. 22, 1963, to 525,000 troops in January of 1969.
Gradual escalation, which is exactly what Barack is recommending.
LBJ never thought through to the end game: how to break Hanoi, withdraw and leave a South peaceful, prosperous and pro-American.
Has Barack thought his way through to how this war ends in victory and we withdraw all U.S. ground troops from Afghanistan? For this writer cannot see anywhere on the horizon any such ending.
If the old rule applies -- the guerrilla wins if he does not lose -- the United States, about to enter its eighth year of combat, is losing. And, using the old 10-to-one ratio of regular troops needed to defeat guerrillas, if the Taliban can recruit 1,000 new fighters, they can see Obama's two-brigade bet, and raise him. Just as Uncle Ho raised LBJ again and again.
What does President Obama do then? Send in 10,000 more?
The Soviet Union, whose 115,000-man army in Afghanistan reached more than twice the size of U.S.-NATO forces, even with the Obama surge, went home defeated in 1988. The Soviet Empire did not survive that humiliation.
Obama -- and John McCain, who has endorsed the build-up -- should, before committing any more combat brigades, explain how and when this war ends in an American victory. For as of today, the Afghan war resembles Vietnam far more than Iraq ever did.
Consider. Taliban attacks are up 40 percent this year. U.S. casualties in May and June exceeded those in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus says al-Qaida is moving assets from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Karzai's writ still does not extend beyond the capital. He is mocked as the "Mayor of Kabul." Security in the capital is deteriorating.
For the sixth straight year, the poppy crop, primary source of the world's heroin, has set a new record. The Taliban eradicated the crop when in power, but are now collaborating with farmers to extort cash to keep fighting.