Ambassador Eikenberry let loose on Hamid Karzai the other day, giving voice to collective American anger and disgust with the Afgan mess and, by extension, the entire duplicity and triple-dealing on the part of another ungracious aid recipient Pakistan. Americans favor withdrawal after a decade in Afghanistan, but they are torn; on the one hand, they have dealt crushing blows to both the Taliban and al Qaeda and have given Afghan women and the oppressed a shot at something better than theocracy, and feel that a stable Afghanistan is within reach and would justify the vast cost in blood and treasure incurred thus far. On the other, they feel that the training wheels have been on as long as they can, and now it is up to the rider to crash or ride. In the event of chaos after our departure, a new doctrine of 'more rubble, less trouble' will inevitably characterize the next response to a terrorist attack on the U.S. originating from the Hindu Kush, without much worry whether such reprisals "destabilize" the region, or "do nothing to promote stability". Been there, done that summarizes the current collective American feeling.
In general, we are seeing on the Republican side a new muscular isolationism, perhaps even a Jacksonian spirit, of hoarding our assets, cutting foreign aid, ending nation building, and only responding to clear and present dangers, and doing so in an overwhelmingly lethal manner, without much worry about nation-building in the aftermath. We know in our heads things are never so simple, and wars are not really won until a defeated or demoralized enemy also accepts the victor's political demands, and yet in our hearts we are sick and tired of intervening and then spending lives and money on those who hate us.
Politically, we are starting to see the emergence of a weird partisan flip-flop. Republicans are reverting to a new isolationism that the hard left supports; the one for purposes of national interest, the other in shame that American action abroad is purportedly wrong and amoral. In contrast, the once avid war critic Obama who damned Iraq, Guantanamo, tribunals, renditions, preventive detention, Predators, wiretaps, and intercepts—and quite openly demagogued those issues for partisan advantage in both his senate and presidential races—now has followed the Bush-Petraeus plan in Iraq, escalated in Afghanistan, started a third war in Libya, and on the sly is using assets to bomb targets in Yemen, while suddenly voicing support in the abstract for Arab democratic unrest.
So we see those in 2006 who opportunistically reviled Bush for partisan purposes on Iraq and the war on terror—Clinton, Kerry, Obama most prominently—now trying to muster support for a Bush agenda in the Middle East.
Stranger than fiction.