I wish I could sleep better but feel almost awake hearing August 2011 was the deadliest month for our soldiers in our longest (but not bloodiest) war. It had to become our longest because during the 2008 campaign I proved I was as belligerent as opponents by vowing to escalate military operations in Afghanistan and destroy Al Qaeda. I know there hasn’t been much Al Qaeda to destroy there and that bothers me. I deflect my discomfort by vowing to defeat or at least pacify the Taliban despite knowing we can’t appreciably damage those implacable warriors who, let us admit, are battling for their homeland. Our current hundred thousand soldiers and much smaller contingent of increasingly reluctant allies are not remotely sufficient and five times that many wouldn’t be, either.
No president could state that and be reelected, and I, like all presidents, will say or neglect to say most anything that improves my odds of staying in office. For that reason I’m grinding my teeth and clenching the covers as I toss back and forth in bed unable to forget sixty-six Americans died in Afghanistan last month and that number won’t appreciably drop due to my primarily-political withdrawal of ten thousand soldiers this year and twenty-three thousand more by next summer, when I pray I’ll be able to claim not merely a diminished U.S. presence but a miraculous rout of the enemy.
On this endless night what I really see are about sixty-eight thousand Americans killing lots of Taliban soldiers, who’ll rapidly be replaced, as well as plenty of civilians and losing several hundred more of our soldiers and dealing with corrupt President Hamid Karzai and his henchmen who loathe us but want us there fighting until the end of 2014 when they’ll either ask us to keep fighting or, if their troops and security forces, dutifully trained and lavishly financed by the United States, are moderately competent, to stay and continue training and supporting them. And I, or another president, will have to claim that Al Qaeda, which is more numerous in Pakistan and Yemen, and which planned much of 9/11 in Germany, is somehow preordained to again strike us while its new brain trust is bunkered in Afghanistan. That is what I must pretend to believe. That is what most Americans either believe or pretend to believe. And that is why I have vowed to keep fighting until we can bring this war to a “responsible end.” That reminds me of Richard Nixon insisting on “peace with honor” in Viet Nam. And that’s a nightmare from which I shall awake in a hellish place.