The question of whether President Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan misses the point.
What Obama really needs to do is: Invent a time machine, go back to the 2008 presidential campaign and not say, over and over and over again, that Afghanistan was a "war of necessity" while the war in Iraq was a "war of choice." (Oh, and as long as you're back there, ditch Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett and that gay "school safety" czar.)
The most important part of warfare is picking your battlefield, and President Bush picked Iraq for a reason.
Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11 -- or the dozen other times American embassies, barracks and buildings came under jihadist onslaught since Jimmy Carter presided over "regime change" in Iran in 1979. Both countries -- and others -- gave succor to terrorists who had attacked the U.S. repeatedly, and would do so again.
As liberals endlessly reminded us during the three weeks of war in Afghanistan before the U.S. military swept into Kabul, Afghanistan has all the makings of a military disaster. It is mountainous, cave-pocked, tribal, has no resources worth fighting for and a populace that makes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed look like Alistair Cooke.
By contrast, Iraq had a relatively educated, pro-Western populace, but was ruled by a brutal third-world despot.
It's always something with the Muslims. You either have mostly sane people governed by a crazy dictator -- Iraq, Iran and Syria (also California and Michigan) -- or a crazy people governed by relatively sane leaders -- Pakistan and Afghanistan, post-U.S. invasion (also Vermont and Minnesota). There are also insane people ruled by insane leaders (but enough about the House Democratic Caucus). Sane people with sane rulers has not been fully tried yet.
Not only could regime change in Iraq work, but Iraq's countryside was susceptible to America's overwhelming air power. Also, Iraq has fabulous natural resources. Once the U.S. got control of Iraq's oil fields, the Shia, Sunni and Kurds could decide to either prosper together or starve together. (And it's not just oil: They're basically sitting on top of most of the world's proven reserves of cab drivers.)
By contrast, there aren't a lot of sticks that can be used in a wasteland like Afghanistan, where the people live in caves and scratch out a living in the dirt. The only "carrot" we might be able to offer them would be actual carrots.
Liberals sneered at Bush's description of Iraq as the "central front of the war on terror" and a step toward the "democratization of the Middle East" -- as Mark Danner did in the Sept. 11, 2005, New York Times -- because sneering was all they could do. By design, Iraq was the central front in the war on terrorism.
Any fanatic who hated the Great Satan, owned an overnight bag and was not already working for The New York Times was lured across the border into Iraq ... to be met by the awesome force of the U.S. military. Bush chose the battlefield that made the best flytrap for Islamic crazies and also that was most amenable to regime change.
Now nearly all denizens of the Middle East want the U.S. to invade them, so they can live in democracy, too. As Thomas Friedman inadvertently admitted, Lebanese voters credit their recent free election, in which the voters threw out Hezbollah, to President Bush. (American liberals, naturally, gave the credit to Obama, who they also believe is responsible for the sun rising every morning.)
Brave Iranian students who protested the tyrant Ahmadinejad did so because of Iraq -- and then they stopped because of Obama's indifference. Sadly for them, America's foreign policy will now be based on a calculus of political correctness, not national security.
But lo and behold, those very liberals who were champing at the bit to fight in Afghanistan are suddenly full of objections to the war there, too. As Frank Rich points out: "Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention."
Now they notice.
Afghanistan is a brutal battlefield, largely invulnerable to modern warfare -- something the British and Russians learned. But as our military under Bush showed the world in 21 days, scimitar-wielding savages are no match for the voluntary civilian troops of a free people.
Bush removed the Taliban from power, captured or killed the lunatics and, for the next seven years, about the only news we heard out of Afghanistan were occasional announcements of parliamentary elections, new schools, water and electricity plants.
The difficult choice Obama faces in Afghanistan is entirely of his own making, not his generals' and certainly not Bush's. It was Obama's meaningless blather about Afghanistan being a "war of necessity" during the campaign that has moved the central front in the war on terrorism from Iraq -- a good battleground for the U.S. -- to Afghanistan -- a lousy battlefront for the U.S.
And it was Obama's idea to treat war as if it's an ordinary drug bust, reading suspects their Miranda rights and taking care not to put civilians in harm's way.
A Democrat is president and, once again, America finds itself in an "unwinnable war." I know Democrats will never learn, but I wish the voters would.