Barack Obama and John McCain have strong disagreements over Iraq, but on Afghanistan they agree: a troop surge is necessary. Nearly 60% of Americans agree, as does the defense secretary, Robert Gates. There's just one problem, writes Bartle Breese Bull in the New York Times: even with a costly surge, there's little prospect of making "fractious, impoverished Afghanistan into an orderly and prosperous nation."
To "win" in Afghanistan would take three times as many troops as were sent to Iraq at the height of the surge, he estimates, and none of our stated goals there, including disrupting terrorist havens, justifiy it. "The invasion of Afghanistan was a great tactical success and the correct strategic move. Yet since then it seems as if the United States has been trying to turn the conflict into the Vietnam War of the early 21st century." Instead, he argues for restraint: "train the Afghan Army, support an Afghan state generously in other ways and maintain our intelligence and surgical strike capacities."