For anyone trying to write about Afghanistan, the war in that ornery, cantankerous and choleric nation is one of the fastest-moving targets around.
Writing about it, like fighting it, is like playing dodge-ball with a fruit fly. Like shooting minnows in the sea. Like pitting Wile E. Coyote against the road runner -- and we all know which character the U.S. military plays in that cartoon.
Anyone who thinks the Afghan people will ever just sit down and play nice with Uncle Sam would make a perfect buyer for oceanfront property in Arizona.
If they could get a mortgage.
But I digress.
No wonder the White House is entertaining so many potential strategies and can't seem to pick out one good one just yet. Obama is now rightfully taking his time, weighing each option, and asking for more ideas on how to proceed.
In my humble opinion, any strategy other than withdrawal is doomed to fail. Withdrawal will also fail in its own way, of course; once we pull out, the country will revert to its natural state -- a rugged land full of fierce fighters who will train their sights away from the Yankee invaders and back onto their own people.
So why should we throw more human bodies in the form of American soldiers at an effort that cannot succeed no matter how many years and devalued dollars we invest?
Common sense plus history -- especially the comical Great Game waged between Russia and Britain there in the 19th century -- will tell us to pack up our toys and leave Afghanistan now.
Russian attempts to control the country in the 1980s also led to nothing but widows and the eventual collapse of the Soviet empire. And we need only look at British efforts to tell Americans what to do 250 years ago to know that no people want foreign troops on their soil.
And I would argue that Afghani "minutemen" are a lot tougher and more numerous than our home-grown version back then.
My brief experience in Central Asia -- where I spent five months on a US-taxpayer-funded media project in the comparatively mild-mannered Kazakhstan -- tells me that what we call corruption in America is simply the cost of doing business there. And that these nations' leaders long ago learned how to tell us what we want to hear. They know just how naive Americans can be.
So, are the endless battles and skirmishes and firefights and downed helicopters in Afghanistan helping in any way? Rumor has it that we went into Afghanistan to prevent Al Qaeda from inflicting another September 11th on America. But rumor also has it that Al Qaeda has prudently moved to Pakistan and, if 9/11 or recent events are any example, most terrorist plots can just as easily be hatched in European cities or on U.S. military bases in Texas anyway.
In fact, our presence in Afghanistan is only making matters worse, especially by helping to destabilize nuclear-bomb-owning Pakistan and to recruit young Muslims who have nothing better to do. And there are lots of young Muslims with
nothing better to do.
In the meantime, we've already pumped $144 billion dollars into Afghanistan. Apparently, that works out to a million bucks per soldier per year. And we don't save money when one of them gets killed -- we just replace him or her with a new one.
It will be no cakewalk to pull out of Afghanistan and I, like many people, fear for those locals who aided our misguided efforts, and for the women who will surely suffer if the repressive Taliban return.
Similar arguments were used to keep us in Vietnam long after it was clear to most Americans that victory there was impossible. If the U.S. military had continued to believe an end was in sight, we would still be bombing rice paddies and dropping napalm on the jungle, if there were any rice paddies or jungles left.
(Maybe we should bring back the draft. That would almost guarantee an imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan and its sister war in Iraq. Once enough American boys and girls were sent over to fight -- and not just the poor and needy -- the whole thing would be over lickety-split.)
We should never have gone on this fool's errand in the first place, and should have let the Afghans work out their internal problems themselves. But that is another story, another president, and the mistake that led to all others.
In the meantime, again, we're quibbling over how much modest proposals for health care reform might cost or how much we might have to spend to fix our mediocre educational system or to clean up our inner cities or help put Americans back to work.
America is falling apart while our bright red blood and crisp greenbacks paint and litter the barren Afghan hills.
A writer for Britain's Guardian recently compared the endless war in Afghanistan with the darkly funny movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character must repeat the same day again and again. It is only through being forced to reexamine his life and priorities that he manages to break that vicious cycle.
Would that America do the same. Our clock, too, is ticking.