Use this argument on anyone who still insists on “staying the course” in Afghanistan:
Hypothetical situation: It’s the year 2101 and the United States government has long since crumbled under the weight of its own corruption. Most authority is local, with most cities and towns controlled by Evangelical Christian Militias who aim to impose their own strict interpretation of Biblical Law across the entire country.
Meanwhile, China is the world’s sole super-power and is exterting its influence around the globe. Because they are seen as anti-Christian, the Evangelical Militia groups despise China and would like nothing more than to see it crumble. So they commit an act of terrorism which draws China into a war with the United States.
The Chinese army rolls in, takes out a big chunk of the Militia’s leadership, and sets up a new federal government with China’s full support.
But most Americans never see this government as legitimate, and the remnants of the Christian Militias rise and grow stronger as even non-Christians join them in their struggle to expel the foreign occupiers. On top of that, the latest presidential election is discovered to have been fraudulent, and the president himself is known to have ties to underground drug cartels. Yet the Chinese insist on continuing to back him up militarily.
The Chinese army won’t leave until the Evangelicals are defeated and the U.S. government is capable of supporting itself and preventing any Militias from ever rising again. Yet the Evangelical Militias remain very popular in many parts of the country and the Chinese are almost universally hated because their soldiers don’t speak English, have no understanding of American culture, and frequently kill innocent civilians through carelessness.
The question: Is it possible for China to succeed in its mission? Could it succeed after only one year? Ten years? A hundred years? Or is this the kind of task that is simply impossible to accomplish, like landing safely on the moon by shooting yourself from a cannon?
Obviously, in this analogy China is the United States. The United States is Afghanistan. The corrupt government is the Karzai regime. And the Evangelical Militias are the Taliban.
The United States is as likely to be able to succeed in Afghanistan–by our own definition of “success”–as China would be likely to be able to stabilize a corrupt U.S. government and completely root out right-wing Evangelicals.
So let’s get. the fuck. out of there.
[Full disclosure: I got this idea while watching Cenk Uygur and Jonathan Kim discuss the film "Restrepo" on last Friday's episode of The Young Yurks]