Something that I think is missing from American political culture is the thing that in Europe is taken to be the lesson of World War One, namely that a war can be bad for reasons other than it being lost. France and Britain were ultimately victorious in the war, but it was ruinous nonetheless. What was needed from the political leadership of the time was a way to avoid the war, not a way to win it. In America, though, evaluation of military endeavors is ruthlessly governed by considerations of efficacy. To lose a war, like in Vietnam, is a bad thing. But there seems to be a growing conventional wisdom that the surge has somehow redeemed Iraq and that the only thing we’re allowed to talk about with regard to Afghanistan is whether we can or will “win.”I couldn't agree more. Traditional American concepts of winning and losing wars, which stem from our experiences in titantic conflicts like the Civil War and WWII, have little do with success or failure or costs-benefits ratios of the conflicts that are likely for the foreseeable future.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
From Matt Yglesias: