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Are We Asking the Wrong Question in Afghanistan?

With the agreement by Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to convene the recently elected parliament, a growing crisis appears to have been averted. As important as this decision is in the short term, however, it will not settle the larger question of whether we can win the war.

Ask this question and you can expect three basic answers. A host of critics will try to convince you that the war can’t be won. Advocates will insist that this is a war we can and must win. Then there are those Americans caught in the middle, fearing the worst but uncertain of how to proceed.

Strong debate is crucial to the health of a democracy such as ours, of course, but this debate has gone on interminably and it appears to have contributed little to the war effort. The problem is that the debate is focused on the conditions on the ground, a complicated question given that the “the ground” covers a large and varying terrain and that conditions are often in a state of flux.

Even if we were able to answer this question with some sense of certainty, it is not the most important question. The decisive question is not can we win, but will the Afghanis fight.

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