I can remember back when people excused George W. Bush’s lack of experience by saying that he’d surround himself with experienced advisers. That didn’t work. Some of the advisers (Cheney, Rumsfeld) were actually nutty. Colin Powell destroyed himself at the U.N. “Too-moderate” people like Paul O’Neill and Christine Todd Whitman were essentially ignored (and disposed of at the first opportunity). And so on. It didn’t work because you can’t adviser-away profound ignorance of policy. There are going to be smart people convincingly arguing for every course of action, the job is to be able to evaluate all that. Bush couldn’t do it, so the winners were people who could best manipulate his insecurities.

I remembered this when people felt relief that “the grown-ups” were running foreign policy and national security under Trump, and H.R. McMaster is better than Michael Flynn. But McMaster sucks, Mattis sucks, and the Afghanistan policy about to be announced is also going to suck. If anyone actually thinks that Afghanistan can be turned into a centralized, reasonably liberal state with full control over its territory and borders, I mean, why? It’s never been the case before, why should America in 2017 be able to sprinkle some gold dust and make it happen now? I get that we’re Not Supposed To Look At The Past and that we need to Focus On The Current Problems, but it’s not as if the past fifteen years have really bred much confidence in our ability to do that either.

Even most Democrats revere the military, but the military is just another institution that is capable of derpy rationalization and an inability to accept failure, which is essentially what re-escalating in Afghanistan is. It’s lost. The Taliban is absolutely going to take over again, and indeed it is well advanced toward doing so. This is really bad. But I guess this time we’re going to stick it out until Saigon finally falls? The difference between the military and a domestic institution is that people will actually challenge a domestic institution that is failing. Because Americans (incl. most Democrats) see the military as this pure, above ideology, pragmatic institution, they let it do whatever it wants. Ain’t nothing pragmatic about this though.

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