McCain’s Simple Narrative

Last Wednesday, U.S. Senator John McCain gave a tough talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.

His topic was Afghanistan.   His message was that the U.S. is losing the war.

The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago …  But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.

Fine.  Let’s not be paralyzed.  But there is a way in which Sen. McCain managed to avoid discussing the same realities on the ground that everyone else seems to be avoiding.

Let’s just take one issue in particular:  there is no such thing as “the” Taliban.  It might make for easy reporting, but the notion of a single opposition force serves to obscure more than it reveals.

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Opinion: U.S. policies have weakened Pakistani civilian rule

…it is fairly clear that the idea of the Taliban somehow controlling Pakistan’s 172 million people is absurd.

Opinion:  U.S. policies have weakened Pakistani civilian rule

By Sanjeev Bery and Manan Ahmed

San Jose Mercury News  /  Posted: 02/17/2009

http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_11724597

Depending on whether you like watching your news or reading it, there were two very different reports on Pakistan this Sunday.

On CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Pakistani President Asif Zardari proclaimed that his nation is in a fight for its survival, with the Taliban “trying to take over the state of Pakistan.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Zardari’s government reached a 10-day cease fire with a Taliban-affiliated militia in the northern Swat Valley. The militia agreed to stop fighting, and in return, the government agreed to implement Islamic Sharia law in the area.

How does one reconcile the two accounts?

First, let’s dispense with the hyperbole. Pakistan is not on the verge of being taken over by Taliban militias.

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