In the wake of the Rolling Stone/Stanley McChrystal controversy, one might think that there could finally be some space to have a debate about the Afghanistan war–especially considering that the magazine article was really about fundamental questions about the war itself (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/25/10).
The Washington Post (6/27/10) ran one of its often-terrible Topic A features on Sunday–where the paper gathers up different contributors to weigh in on the same topic. As usual, readers mostly got a collectionof familiar hawks.
The first two (Danielle Pletka from the American Enterprise Institute, former NATO ambassador Kurt Volker) seem to want to see a more aggressive war. Tod Lindberg from the right-wing Hoover Institutewants much the same–he's pleased with the Petraeus pick.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies writes,"It is time to focus on winning the war," and sees at least two more years of war before we can even tell if the currentstrategy is working. Zalmay Khalilzad (George W. Bush's Iraq and Afghanistan ambassador) lays out his plan for victory, and cautions againstany rapid withdrawal. Erin Simpson from the Afghan International Security Assistance Force's Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team basically argues that good counterinsurgency doctrine does not permit all the "backbiting" revealed by Rolling Stone, so it was wise to remove McChrystal.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Gilles Dorronsoro from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peacesupportssome sort of peace talks with Taliban officials, and argues that future military offensives be scaled back.
This is probably the point of view that comes closest to expressing the prevailing public sentiment; on the Post's editorial page, it amounts to a curious outlier.
To the paper's credit, the following day Boston University history professor Andrew Bacevich wrote a strong piece (not listed on their print edition website, for some reason) headlined, "Endless War, a Recipe for Four-Star Arrogance."