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Andrew J. Bacevich: The Long War, Year Ten: Lost in the Desert with the GPS on the Fritz

October 7, 2010

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By **Andrew J. Bacevich**

In January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s charge to a newly-appointed commanding general was simplicity itself: “give us victories.” President Barack Obama’s tacit charge to his generals amounts to this: give us conditions permitting a dignified withdrawal. A pithy quote in Bob Woodward’s new book captures the essence of an emerging Obama Doctrine: “hand it off and get out.”

Getting into a war is generally a piece of cake. Getting out tends to be another matter altogether—especially when the commander-in-chief and his commanders in the field disagree on the advisability of doing so.

Happy Anniversary, America. Nine years ago today—on October 7, 2001—a series of U.S. air strikes against targets across Afghanistan launched the opening campaign of what has since become the nation’s longest war. Three thousand two hundred and eighty five days later the fight to determine Afghanistan’s future continues. At least in part, “Operation Enduring Freedom” has lived up to its name: it has certainly proven to be enduring.

As the conflict formerly known as the Global War on Terror enters its tenth year, Americans are entitled to pose this question: When, where, and how will the war end? Bluntly, are we almost there yet?

[A]ssigning combat soldiers the task of nation-building in, say, Mesopotamia is akin to hiring a crew of lumberjacks to build a house in suburbia.

Of course, with the passage of time, where &#822

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