October 7 will mark the eighth anniversary of George W. Bush's invasion of Afghanistan. And what have we accomplished there in those eight years? Nothing to be proud of, really.
Sure, we initially took out the Taliban, who were allegedly providing refuge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But that didn't last very long. Bush took his eye off the ball and let bin Laden get away in order to shift gears (and troops) and attack the unarmed nation of Iraq, which had posed no threat to us and which had nothing to do with 9/11.
So the Taliban have regrouped and are once again terrorizing Afghanistan.
Afghan women and girls are afraid to leave their homes, lest they be attacked with acid or gunfire.
Afghanistan is now the greatest illicit opium producer in the world because farmers there have no other reliable source of revenue.
Osama bin Laden remains at large.
And al-Qaeda and its allies continue to plot attacks against the West.
Nice job, Mr. Bush!
And now President Obama is expected to clean up this mess and finally "win" what has become a no-win situation in Afghanistan.
How can we "win" in Afghanistan when al-Qaeda are now actually in Pakistan and in cells around the world?
How can we "win" in Afghanistan when our eight-year involvement there has neither made life better for the Afghan people nor made us any safer here at home?
How can we "win" in Afghanistan when the past eight years have made it clear that, purple fingers or not, you cannot spread democracy at the point of a gun? Democracy, by its very nature, cannot be forced.
And what other practical interest could we possibly have there? Anything other than oil?
Still, General Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, wants us to send thousands of additional troops there.
The war in Afghanistan has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $200 billion so far. And the military wants this to continue for how long?
Fortunately, President Obama did not immediately say "yes" to McChrystal's request. He wants to reassess the situation in Afghanistan.
In doing so, I hope he hears the concerns of his vice president. Over the past few years and some face-to-face dinners with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Joe Biden has come to identify some additional obstacles that face us there. He found that the Karzai government is corrupt, the Karzai government denies the corruption, and so the Karzai government is not being honest with us.
And so Biden rightly questions the clarity of our mission in Afghanistan, as quoted in The New Republic: "If you asked ten different U.S. officials in that country what their mission was, you’d get ten different answers."
Which of those ten answers will Obama choose? Or will he instead heed the concerns of his vice president, whom he chose for his experience and expertise in foreign policy?
Just as Iraq has been called Bush's Vietnam, Afghanistan could easily become Obama's, unless he chooses wisely. And I hope he chooses to support the troops by bringing them home, sooner rather than later.