The top general in Afghanistan, Stanley A. McChrystal, has privately requested several thousand additional troops, warning that failure to comply within twelve months could lead to failure. Political considerations aside, is McChrystal right? As the road in Afghanistan forks between massive and long-term troop involvement or outright withdrawal, commentators tackle big questions about America's long-term role.

  • 21st Century Imperialism  Andrew Sullivan warned against mission creep far beyond counterinsurgency. "We have to weigh the chances of serious terror groups re-grouping and operating even more freely throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan against the risks of more money, more troops, more casualties and more blowback. And let's not fool ourselves: neither of these is a good option," he wrote. "But if McChrystal is right, he is strategizing Afghanistan as a semi-permanent protectorate for the US. This is empire in the 21st century sense: occupying failed states indefinitely to prevent even more chaos spinning out of them. And it has the embedded logic of all empires: if it doesn't keep expanding, it will collapse. The logic of McChrystal is that the US should be occupying Pakistan as well. And Somalia. And anywhere al Qaeda make seek refuge."
  • Surge Worked in Iraq, Why Not Afghanistan?  Peter Feaver compared McChrystal's report to discussions over the Iraq War surge. "This document will remind anyone who worked on the issue of the internal debate over the surge strategy in Iraq circa Fall 2006. While the Bush administration Iraq Strategy Review did not produce a 66-page report that leaked, we covered much this same terrain and wrestled with many of the same thorny trade-offs and uncertain bets," he wrote. "If successful, the McChrystal assessment claims that this will buy time to allow for a safer eventual shift back to a train and transition strategy. It will not win the war in the short-run, but it will shift the trajectory of the war and allow for the possibility that our side can prevail in the long run."
  • Clear Cost-Benefit  Michael Crowley insisted Obama should accept McChrystal's surge-or-withdraw mandate. "During the campaign he spoke often--albeit usually in the context of Iraq--about heeding the advice of his commanders on the ground. Now he's in a position where he may not want to accept it. As I wrote in my last print piece, this line of thinking helped George W. Bush screw up Iraq. That said, what the generals want is not the only consideration here. Their job is to tell Obama how the war can be won. Obama's job is to decide whether, in the context of America's myriad priorities at home and abroad, it's worth the projected cost."
  • Occupation Could Take Decades  Ed Morrissey argued Obama must dig in, prepared for many years of occupation, or leave now. "If we hope to prevail, we will need a political commitment for more resources over a much longer period of time than most politicians have been willing to report.  Michael Yon has insisted that means decades of Western involvement, to make sure that an Afghanistan we eventually leave will not slide back into the Afghanistan of the post-Soviet period, where radical Islam prevails and terrorist networks build central offices for attacks on the world. Either we commit to this fight, or we should pull out altogether."