Jonathan, I second everything you say. I’d only add that there is a vitally important lesson for our own times in the story of Charlie Wilson and Afghanistan. The movie about Wilson’s efforts ends with this line: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. Then we f****d up the endgame.”
Gen. Stanley McChrystal has more recently conveyed a similar sentiment in less colorful terms. “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”
The commander in chief’s thoughts on the matter? “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”
How does that bode for the endgame issue? In twenty years, another book and movie can hit the market about how we changed the world by destroying the Islamist threat in Afghanistan only to see our efforts undone by a pre-set troop drawdown.
What decimated Afghanistan after the Soviets were pushed out was the lack of American follow-through. Charlie Wilson’s War is not a tragedy of misguided adventurism. It’s the story of heroic enterprise undermined by short-sightedness and political cowardice.