But strategy, of course, is not its own end. Strategy is used to achieve certain objectives which form thevery purpose for fighting a war. Barack Obama is not quite as lame as George W. Bush in this respect(not exactly a stunning achievement, that), who argued that America should be at war with the weaponterrorism - as opposed to an actual adversary using that weapon. While we can say that Obama is not asdeceitful (at least on this score) or idiotic as Bush, that's pretty much true of the entire world, isn't it?More importantly, what are America's aims in massively escalating our presence in Afghanistan? Are wetrying to defeat the Taliban? Remove al Qaeda from the country (even though the Pentagon says there'sonly about a hundred of them left there)? Create a Jeffersonian democracy? Install an ally? Lift thecountry out of poverty? Again, it astonishes me that one could take a country to war without this mostobvious question being part of the national discourse. But it isn't.And neither is the question of how ‘winning' in Afghanistan, whatever that would actually mean, wouldeffect American national security, just in the short term. If only for the sake of argument, suppose theUnited States could achieve whatever objectives are entailed by the notion of winning the war there.How long would it take? What would it cost in dollars? How many lives would be lost? What actual,live, current threat would be extinguished, such that America would be safer? What would be traded off,in terms of other uses of the money - from education to infrastructure to paying down the national debt -in order to win this war? What other possible security concerns would go unaddressed because the UStook all its armies on the Risk board and moved them from Irkutsk and Yakutsk and Mongolia toKamchatka? None of these questions have been addressed in the United States, let alone answered. Andthose just represent short-term security concerns.As for each level of security policy analysis discussed above, short-term definitions of success should beconstructed to give service to the next level up, medium-term ones. If it's true that there is a broaderstruggle going on against some sort of wider American enemy, of which Afghanistan is simply a singletheater of operations, then the medium-term security question one has to ask is whether putting so manyresources into that single theater makes sense in the context of the bigger objective. If al Qaeda is locatedin 60 countries, for example, is it smart to stick 100,000 American troops in just one of them, and spend atrillion bucks hunting down a hundred people, especially when they can just slide over the border intoPakistan almost at will?Finally, is the medium-term aspiration for the country serving well the long-term foreign policy goals of the United States in which it should be nested? Are these policies likely to leave us better off, somehow,twenty and fifty years from now? Does an American presence in Afghanistan better America's position inthe world, both with respect to friendly countries, and with respect to rivals, real and potential? Itcertainly doesn't seem to be having a positive effect with the former group, as NATO allies appear lessand less interested in supporting American efforts in the country, either by being there at all, or by beinganywhere near harm's way. As to potential rivals, could anything possibly be more amusing than this warto the grand strategists in Moscow and Beijing, hoping to supercede American as the hegemon of the newcentury? If there is any such possibility, it could only be the US blunder in Iraq. Either way, Americacould hardly have given its rivals a greater gift if we had simply wrapped a ribbon around the capitol andstuck a bow on the dome. Yes, as a matter of fact, history's lesson is correct - empires do die from within,not from external assault. Idiocy is more lethal than are Huns.Like everything in America, both the Afghan war and US foreign policy in general have been relentlesslypoliticized in the last decades, ever since doing so was discovered as a survival technique for theotherwise completely bankrupt politics of the right. Regressives get more mileage out of knee-jerk reactionary national security fears than anything else they can invent as a reason for their existence. Atthe same time, pacifists on the left make the mistake of believing that there is no situation for which waris the appropriate response. I wish that that were true, but, unfortunately, it isn't. If I have to choosebetween World War II and a Thousand-Year Reich of darkness descending over the planet (which would,of course, entail at least as much mass violence, anyhow, to go along with all the repression andcivilizational regression), I reluctantly choose war.