How Afghanistan Went from Good War to Bad

In the beginning, Afghanistan looked like a good war. The United States won a quick victory, drove the Taliban and Al Qaeda out, and installed a friendly government. The results seemed so impressive that even before the fighting stopped, the Bush administration decided to replicate the model in Iraq.But the victory was a mirage. Contrary to what most Americans thought, the United States had jumped into a quagmire in Afghanistan. The root of the problem is simple: a superpower can often topple a hostile regime with relative ease, but then it morphs into an occupying power without an exit strategy. And that usually generates an insurgency.This problem was not immediately apparent in Afghanistan because the United States overthrew the Taliban with a combination of air power, local allies, and small Special Forces units—not a large-scale invasion. Thus when the fighting ended, the United States didn't look like an occupier, at least at first. Washington then helped place Hamid Karzai in...

John Mearsheimer: Rebalancing the Middle East

The United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East. Despite Barack Obama's promises to withdraw from Iraq, the debacle there shows no sign of ending soon. Hamas rules in Gaza; Iran is quickly moving to acquire a nuclear deterrent. We need a radically different strategy for the region.Fortunately, there is a strategy that has proved effective in the past and could serve again today: "offshore balancing." It's less ambitious than President Bush's grand plan to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, but it would be much better at protecting actual U.S. interests. The United States would station its military forces outside the region. And "balancing" would mean we'd rely on regional powers like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia to check each other. Washington would remain diplomatically engaged, and when necessary would assist the weaker side in a conflict. It would also use its air and naval power to respond quickly to unexpected threats. But—and this is the key point—America...