Last night, we watched the 60 Minutes piece on the Gambino boy (such a nice, clean, articulate young man! It's a shame those people got in the way of his bullets!) and then the follow-up 60 Minutes extra segment on Afghanistan. It was a real eye-opener.
Back in 2007, when I used to travel a lot and had to watch Airport CNN because I couldn't escape it, I found an eerie connection between CNN and Lord Haw Haw, the British citizen who voluntarily worked for the Nazis doing propaganda broadcasts.
He would interview Allied POWs, give lists of dead Americans and report the nightly count of Allied bombers shot down. Of course, he worked for the fascists, but then again, a good argument could be made that Wolf Blitzer does the same. This site has a collection of archived broadcasts from Lord Haw Haw. It's chilling to listen to them and then watch CNN.Last night's 60 Minutes bit on Afghanistan was the full Lord Haw Haw. It started with war dead, then followed a bomb removal crew as it trundled along some Afghan roads, focused primarily on the bombs they didn't find and the times when the bomb detection trucks themselves were blown up and then the segment closed with interviews of the soldiers where the only thing discussed was whether the mission in Afghanistan could succeed.
The answer from the soldiers as told to you by the CBS editors who picked which raw video material would make it onto the show: the mission can succeed only if you define success as coming home. In a war where the only way to win it is to outlast your enemy, having the press on the other side is fatal. When your own press is telling you how many B-17s the Luftwaffe shot down, how the bombing raids missed their targets and talking to POWs in Germany who want their families to know they're being well-treated and they just want to come home, you're totally screwed.
In another dispiriting development relative to Afghanistan, Der Spiegel is reporting that as soon as Obama announced that we had a time limit on the Afghan surge, our European allies, never the steadiest bunch, all started edging towards the door. Now they're ready to bolt.
When Washington starts withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, its NATO allies in Europe will quickly rush to the exits. A power-sharing arrangement between Kabul and the Taliban is a less than ideal solution, but it is the only realistic option if the West pulls out.Given a resolute president like George W. Bush, these developments could be weathered. Given one that flounders in the face of something as relatively straightforward as cleaning up an oil spill, these would seem to doom us in Afghanistan. Until last night, I was an optimist about the Afghan campaign. Now, not so much.
No matter how many times President Barack Obama and his senior officials tell the world that the Americans will not be pulling out of Afghanistan in just 13 months time, most Afghans believe that the US endgame is already well under way. The same is true for governments of neighboring countries known for their interference and influence-seeking in the Hindu Kush.