Sure, Karzai’s no saint. But neither is Nuri al-Maliki. In fact, Maliki’s approval rating before the Iraq surge was less than 30 percent, far below Karzai’s today. Maliki didn’t become a vigorous leader because he had a personality transplant; he became a vigorous leader because he had larger, more effective military forces at his disposal. If Karzai had that, he could deal with the warlords from a position of strength.

None of this is to say that the situation in Afghanistan is promising. But it’s not bad enough to do what Biden wants: which is to “give up the ghost.” Biden has reportedly argued that the American people will not support a greater commitment to Afghanistan. But the truth is closer to the reverse: They will not support the current U.S. commitment to Afghanistan because—as study after study shows—the American people will only tolerate casualties if they feel there is a reasonable chance of victory. Sticking with the current force levels when America’s commander on the ground has basically conceded that they cannot reverse the Taliban’s momentum will set in motion a political dynamic that leads to American withdrawal and American defeat…

The Taliban haven’t changed. Last year, men on motorcycles used water pistols to squirt acid in the faces of girls going to school. This year, the Taliban have taken to spraying poison in the courtyards of girls schools. What Biden is essentially proposing is to concede more and more of Afghanistan to such people while relying more heavily on U.S. air power to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. Since air strikes are far more likely to kill innocent civilians than are U.S GIs, Biden’s vision is—for Afghan women in particular—a vision of hell. On the ground, you live in beast-like submission, and from the air, chunks of your village are periodically set aflame.

Somewhere, Donald Rumsfeld is chuckling.