Monday's Morning Edition featured another NPR exclusive on Afghanistan. Mary Louise Kelly was on to explain all about the Two-Clock Theory of War. Opening the report Renee Montagne explains:
"We begin this morning with Afghanistan and a story about two clocks: one ticks in Washington, the other in Kabul. They measure progress in the war. The challenge: they are moving at very different speeds" [notice the bloodless euphemisms - "progress" and "challenge"].All perspectives in the story are provided by war advocates [Peter Feaver -Bush speech-shaper, warmakers Petraeus, Gates, and Mullen - and Steven Biddle, CFR fellow, who Kelly notes is "part of a team advising General Stanley McChrystal...on his war strategy"].
According to Kelly and all her experts, there are always two clocks in US warmaking: the grown-up, big-boy clock of the presidents, generals, and admirals as they bomb, occupy, kill, and destroy. This serious and mature clock ticks very slowly and takes years to produce progress and - ultimately - victory. Opposed to this is the childish, impatient clock of the American public which whizzes away at double or triple time and leads the uninformed masses to reject the wisdom of the wars that the serious grown-ups are running. Kelly's guest Feaver states that "A longstanding criticism of democracies, but especially the American democracy, is that Americans are impatient. They want to see success sooner than later."
Listening to this report, I realized that there is something grimly comical that Kelly has forgotten to tell us about: The Third Clock.
The third clock is the one that doesn't tick at all. In Kelly's report she notes something I've been hearing a lot about since Obama took over the Afghanistan War: the 12 to 18 month "window of opportunity." In Kelly's report we hear Admiral Mike Mullen state
"I do believe we have to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint over the next 12 to 18 months."Kelly reiterates this by noting, "So, progress within the next 12 to 18 months. But is that on the Washington clock or the Kabul clock?"
The date of Kelly's report is September 14, 2009. Let's see how the NPR clock ticks out this magical 12 to 18 month time frame.
THREE MONTHS ago, General McChrystal told Tom Bowman, "So, we see it as very, very important, probably over about the next 12 to 24 months, that we absolutely get a trend where we are clearly winning....I think that the next 18 months are probably a period in which this effort will be decided."
TWO MONTHS ago Robert Siegel talked to Sir Jock Stirrup [not joking], head of the British war staff, who stated, "Well, I think our judgment is probably the same that has been reached here in the United States, which is that over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, we need to be able to demonstrate convincingly to our people that we are making the right degree of progress."
ONE MONTH ago Inskeep chatted with Anthony Cordesman of CSIS about the coming victory in Afghanistan. Speaking on the US war policy in Afghanistan, Cordesman claimed, "If these tactics are to work, we'll know in 12 to 18 months."
Holy smokes! NPR's clock must be an Einsteinian relativity clock that appears to be moving normally to everyone at NPR, but in the real world is virtually standing still. What do you want to wager that next summer NPR will still be dutifully reporting on the need to show progress in Afghanistan within the critical 12 to 18 month time frame? Who knows, by then maybe they'll have dropped this catch phrase about Afghanistan and be explaining how the US has "turned a corner."