Three big-swinging columnists from the left, right and center—Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof of the Times, plus George Will of the Post—have joined the chorus of naysayers on the war in Afghanistan. But if we lose this "relatively easy fight," writes Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, the United States is frankly doomed, a degraded empire following the Romans into history. Withdrawal would give jihadists a major victory, he says, and open the door to attacks that would dwarf 9/11.
For Stephens, "Afghanistan matters not because that's where 9/11 was conceived. It matters because that's where it was imagined." Withdrawal would not only precipitate an even bloodier civil war, sow chaos in Pakistan, and fortify al-Qaeda in Iraq. Worse, it would give Islamists a victory greater than the Soviet defeat there—"a monumental political and ideological victory from which it could recruit a new field of avid jihadists."