My wife and I are ambivalent about the President's most recent address on the Afghanistan war. She is ambivalent because she is more hawkish than me and supported the Afghan war, at least in principle, from the start, and yet after 8 years it seems like a bit of a lost cause. I'm against expanding or even continuing any kind of pointless war, and yet I don't want to be a liberal fifth column that undermines the best hope we have for progressive governance for the foreseeable future.
I see the Afghan war as pointless for one main reason: literacy. The UN puts literacy in Afghanistan at something like one quarter, which cannot sustain a modern nation-state. Modern governance is based on a combination of rule-of-law and bureaucracy, both of which require a minimum level of reading and writing, both among civil servants and among the populace. It also requires consent of those who are being governed, which cannot happen when most people hear about national matters secondhand. Would you agree to progressive policies if everything you knew came from what your grandfather told you? Or your village elder who has a political stake in the status quo?
The other mitigating factor is that "Afghanistan" is not a nation. Not really. There are a lot of people there with some regional similarities and some common interests, but they also have tribal rivalries and legitimate differences that are not subsumed under the rubric of national identity. It took two hundred years and a civil war to get Americans to argue about which values make us more American rather than which values make us want to void the Constitution, and yet we still argue. Afghans aren't even at the point that they think Afghanistan is a valid concept, let alone even wanting to defend or reject parts of it.
So if the President's strategy really depends, as he seemed to argue, on Afghanistan pulling itself together as a country, then the effort is doomed. On the other hand, if what he really wants is the time and manpower to kill or capture Osama bin Laden -- as my wife thinks is the true hidden objective -- then I freely admit that would be a good thing and well worth it. I only wish that was the stated goal so we could align ourselves and the international community in accordance with it.