If President George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Congress had handled things right, the situation in Afghanistan might have been very different today. But instead of committing to nation-building there and destroying the safe havens for al-Qaida and the Taliban, America went to war in Iraq. While we were spending six years, $800 billion and 4,000 American lives on that personal retribution, the real perpetrators of 9-11 and other terrorism were regaining their footing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now we find ourselves with no good options. President Barack Obama could lay out no policy Tuesday night not filled with questions and potential peril. Sending 30,000 more troops means digging deeper in a quagmire, with tremendous human and financial costs. Maintaining the status quo or rapidly pulling troops out means deserting a volatile region, all but guaranteeing chaos in nuclear-armed Pakistan and emboldening the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Faced with all bad choices, Obama pursued the only one with a tiny hope of ending relatively well. Fleeing from Afghanistan now would have made America and its allies substantially less safe. It would return us to the days before 9-11, when al-Qaida plotted largely unfettered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama's surge, giving Gen. Stanley McChrystal nearly all he asked for, has some chance of working as well as Bush's did in Iraq, and offers a good possibility of disrupting al-Qaida.
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