This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
No one knows who’s winning or losing in Afghanistan. But everybody’s playing the expectations game.
In the last few days, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been out to lower America’s expectations of the war. Both invoked “Jeffersonian democracy” – as in what Afghanistan is never going to become.
Obama’s low-expectations goal: an Afghanistan that won’t harbor international terrorists. He didn’t say it, but denying terrorists a base for toppling the Pakistani government is crucial; a nuclear arsenal in the hands of radical Islamists is a terrifying prospect.
Defining success as an absence of terrorism leaves everything else in play, including democracy, human rights and the freedom of Afghanistan’s women. Obama’s unspoken message: You may be appalled at how Afghanistan turns out, even if we “succeed.”
Another set of expectations revolves around the calendar, specifically the month of July 2011. That’s when Obama has announced he will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. But “begin” is a slippery word.
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