The US military possesses the most advanced means to wage war in the world, but after over a decade of dangerously near-sighted strategic vision, our leaders don’t seem to be able to see the forest for the trees. We’re spinning our wheels in a mire of overused tropes when it comes to defining exactly what it is we are trying to do (and whether these goals are doable and more importantly whether they’ll improve our national security footing). Even a foreign policy genius like Henry Kissenger moved from urging for a strategy in 2010 (here) to backtracking to an American face-saving exercise in 2011 (here). As a starting point, in the future we need a take off the rose-colored multiculturalist shades and look at the world as it is, not as we want it to be (hint: this isn’t Mr. Rogers neighborhood, not everyone responds well to the homey sweater and friendly hellos). We need to stop trying to affix our hopes and dreams onto others, in the delusional belief our Western value system will be embraced universally. Our reverence for individual freedom isn’t so revered in a culture that values submission to Allah and societal conformity to rules woven into their cultural fabric for centuries . A decade of trying to bribe and buy loyalty in Afghanistan should provide all the evidence we need that imposing democratic forms does not a democracy make. Does anyone believe we are any further along at “winning the hearts and minds” than when we started down this haphazardly constructed nation-building road? And really is “winning the hearts and minds” really a top-priority national security objective? Here is an excellent work on understanding big picture strategy (nation/state level) by Dr. Harry Yarger that I read a while back. He lays out how to think about strategy. Before we even get to the forming a strategy part, here in the real world we need to start reading real history and realize every group of people on earth has their own unique story and their story provides the framework for their world-view. Sorry, Afghan tribesmen didn’t attend any fancy lectures on Afghanistan’s future at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Relations to learn about what’s best for them. In November Carlo D’Este wrote an excellent perspective on the situation in Afghanistan. Here is his article, “The Endless and Unwinnable War” that appeared in Armchair General magazine.