There is a perverse symmetry on display in Afghanistan right now. Fifteen years ago, American warplanes bombed targets there, beginning an offensive against the Taliban government and al-Qaida precipitated by the 9/11 attacks. This week, they were in action once again.
There was, of course, a big difference in the two operations. In 2001, our forces were opening a campaign that would end quickly in victory. Today, they are part of a war that has no victory, or conclusion, in sight.
Our confidence led us into a fatal error. We committed ourselves to remaking Afghanistan, but not wholeheartedly. Given a choice between a massive commitment of military and civilian resources to serious nation building on one hand and leaving as soon as the enemy was vanquished, we did neither.
Instead, we chose a middle course, Steve Chapman explains, a limited commitment, which averted the worst outcome but offered no way out. We remain wedded to that option for the indefinite future.