The United States entered the Afghanistan tunnel in 2001 and, nine years later, is still stuck in there. In this conceptual tunnel, the generals always perceive the light of victory at its end, while the political leaders want to get out but are hemmed in by its walls. The tunnel also hides the war from the people, most of whom are hardly aware that it is going on, or where it is taking them.
Recently, considerable excitement accompanied the assumption of the Afghanistan command by the Wizard of COIN. The (entertainment) media lavished breathless praise upon the trinket-laden general, while the commentariat pontificated gravely on the prospect that he would repeat his Iraq success through his magic formula. Unfortunately, the only real wizardry possessed by the general (and his acolytes) is in promoting the legends surrounding him, such as his ‘invention’ of COIN, and how its application in Iraq secured victory there. The fact is, this ‘magic’ formula had nothing to do with the reduction of the insurgency in Iraq.