So we learned last night that the late Richard Holbrooke's last words he spoke to a hospital physician just before he underwent surgery was "to stop the war," was apparently made "in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy," according to the Washington Post.
That phrase was displayed prominently at the top of two of the biggest websites in the country on Tuesday, the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report.
But even if those words were uttered with complete and sober sincerity, what would it matter? other than another talking point for critics of the America's imbroglio in Afghanistan that our policy there simply isn't working.
A story in today's New York Times could have come from last year, or the year before. It's entitled, Mullen Expresses Impatience With Pakistan on Visit. In the story, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen says that he's guilty of being impatient in trying to have Pakistan come along "quicker" than how the U.S. would prefer is happening now:
The extremist organizations that are killing Pakistani nationals are a huge challenge to them, Admiral Mullen said during an interview with a small group of American correspondents. We all have a sense of urgency about this. We are losing people.
The problem, he said, is how to manage the need to halt cross-border insurgent attacks while helping build Pakistans capabilities to battle domestic insurgents and to convince the Pakistan government that domestic terrorism is a greater threat than the one perceived from rival India.
We want to solve it overnight, Admiral Mullen said. There is a strategic impatience on the part of myself and others. For the long-term relationship, there has got to be strategic patience. And there is a tension there. I think we both understand that."
With all due respect to Admiral Mullen, how much "strategic patience" does this nation have left for this war? We're more than nine years into it, and with the surge in troops first announced by President Obama a year ago now complete, what progress has there really been?
We'll find out tomorrow when the administration announce a review of its strategy in Afghanistan, where the President is expected to announce that "progress" is being achieved. But the NY Times Elizabeth Bumiller reports that that rosy scenario will stand in contradiction to two intelligence reports that will be much more negative and said the chance of success is limited unless - yes - Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.
But, Bumiller reports, military commanders and Pentagon officials are already criticizing those reports (one a National Intelligence Estimate) as being out of date, since they ended their reporting on October 1. Still, there can't possibly be that much improvement over the past two months, can there be?