McChrystal: We can't defeat Al Qaeda without catching Bin Laden

The whole clip’s worth watching but skip ahead to 2:55 if you’re pressed. This was the most interesting line from a day of testimony otherwise devoted to expressing confidence in Obama’s strategy and insisting that, timetable or no timetable, he will indeed ask for more troops later if he thinks they’re required. Which they well may be: Karzai chose today of all days to let the world know Afghanistan won’t be able to pay for its own army for another 20 years.

McChrystal’s point is that so long as Osama’s free to inspire, there’ll always be some soft-headed jihadbot willing to take up his cause. Which may be so. But isn’t the perennial argument against executing these turds that it’ll only make martyrs of them? Thanks to the Internet, Bin Laden will still be doing plenty of inspiring long after he’s gone (assuming he isn’t gone already). Also, why acknowledge this when he knows that anti-war types will hold it over his head? It’s Bush’s “dead or alive” redux: Even if he pushes the Taliban back, doves will yell that the mission’s a failure by his own yardstick because we’ve failed to knock out Bin Laden. Gates says we haven’t had good intel on Osama’s location in years. How likely is it at this point that we’re ever going to take him out?

Beyond all that, it’s odd to watch a guy who’s been told to “degrade,” not “defeat,” the enemy in the field talk about “finally defeating” an international movement like Al Qaeda. If the White House doesn’t believe in victory over the Taliban, surely they don’t believe in victory over AQ, do they?

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