"It is one of these cases where, having invested an enormous amount of money, we are now arguing about a tiny amount of money in terms of bringing this to a successful conclusion," Gates said. "It reminds me for all the world of the last scene in Charlie Wilson's War, where, having forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan and having spent billions to do it, Charlie Wilson can't get a million dollars for schools." It's a good thing Charlie died in February at 76, so he won't have to watch the sequel.
Obviously Iraq is not Afghanistan redux--Afghanistan is not even really Afghanistan redux--but Gates' point should be well taken. Disengagement after Soviet withdrawal was a major contributing factor to the failure of the Afghan state, giving rise to the instability that facilitated the Taliban's take-over and, eventually, Al Qaeda's creation of a fiefdom there. For several years we've witnessed an incredible decline in US influence in Iraq. At the same time, the dysfunction of the Iraqi political system has been patent over the last 7 months as Iraq has struggled to form a new government, leading, it appears, to the resurgence of Muqtada al-Sadr. After the time, blood, and treasure expended in Iraq--ours and the Iraqis--it would be a tragedy to, through short-sighted penny pinching, undermine what was eventually built up.