Time is running out.
Only with hindsight can one look back and see that the smartest course may not have been the right one.
Obama wanted a serious internal debate about his policy, and he got one, with advisers considering whether the war was already lost. Yet the conclusion was, in a sense, foreordained by the President's campaign promises. Intellectual honesty in the private councils of the White House told you something about the calibre of the officials involved, but in the realm of public policy it made little difference.
Richard Holbrooke must know that there will be no American victory in this war; he can only try to forestall potential disaster. But if he considers success unlikely, or even questions the premise of the war, he has kept it to himself.
The war in Afghanistan will be much tougher than Iraq.
It's going to be a long, difficult struggle.
The implicit assumption of these arguments about strategy is that there is, somewhere out there, a workable strategy.
Democratic politicians are demanding results before [the 2010] congressional elections, which is neither realistic nor possible. Moreover, the Taliban are quite aware of the Democrats' timetable.
Western policy seems glued to fighting a war that many people in the know are now saying the west is never going to win.
The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it's precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn't want.
In the end, Obama adopted what is beginning to look like a bad compromise. He approved most of the additional troops that McChrystal sought, but attached the July, 2011 deadline for beginning withdrawals. Since then both sides have been arguing their cases, in private and in public, to the press and to members of Congress.
McChrystal's removal will not make the Afghan war go any better, for the simple reason that nothing will do that.
No other general is going to succeed with such men in such a position. The overwhelming lesson of Hastings's article is not: "Get rid of McChrystal." It is, simply: "Get out!"