That would be Anthony Cordesman, formerly a nutroots darling, of late known as “Anthony who?” since he came back from Iraq heralding major progress on every front. There’s actually plenty for the left to like about his new op-ed if they can get past the horrifying prospect of winning both wars. What it’ll take: A redoubled commitment in both theaters by the United States for the next, oh, say, 10 years, plus major assistance from NATO and Pakistan, whose new government is already wilting on the vine in the face of the jihadi menace. The Obama talking points write themselves — war without end, too risky and expensive, better to focus on Afghanistan, which Cordesman says in worse shape than Iraq — but it leaves McCain an opening to try to shift the narrative from “how do we get out of an unwinnable war?” to “do we get out of a war that’s winnable?” Cordesman:
If the next president, Congress and the American people cannot face this reality [that the wars will take years to win], we will lose. Years of false promises about the speed with which we can create effective army, police and criminal justice capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot disguise the fact that mature, effective local forces and structures will not be available until 2012 and probably well beyond. This does not mean that U.S. and allied force levels cannot be cut over time, but a serious military and advisory presence will probably be needed for at least that long, and rushed reductions in forces or providing inadequate forces will lead to a collapse at the military level.
The most serious problems, however, are governance and development. Both countries face critical internal divisions and levels of poverty and unemployment that will require patience. These troubles can be worked out, but only over a period of years. Both central governments are corrupt and ineffective, and they cannot bring development and services without years of additional aid at far higher levels than the Bush administration now budgets. Blaming weak governments or trying to rush them into effective action by threatening to leave will undercut them long before they are strong enough to act.
If you missed it a few weeks ago, here’s the video of Obama trying to rush the Iraqi government into effective action by threatening to leave. Exit question: With progress on the ground in Iraq and the war fading as an issue relative to the economy and even relative to Iran and Pakistan, which side gains more by making it a campaign issue?