Two points with respect to Aaro's latest
1. Here's a conversation you never, ever hear in the world of business (or at least, not in functional organisations), but which you get in politics all the time. It's practically definitive
of the difference in attitudes.
A: "It is impossible for this project to succeed"
B: "But if it fails, the consequences will be terrible"
A: "OK, it isn't impossible then".
(I have made this point a lot of times on AW, I know, sorry).
2. More importantly, Aaro is not being straight or serious here in his framing of the issue. He's written it as if there were two options:
a) maintain our presence in Afghanistan
b) leave Afghanistan.
But actually, there's a third
c) massively increase our presence in Afghanistan
Ignoring c) is precisely the evasiveness and refusal to face up that he's accusing his opponents of. All of his arguments about the terrible state of Afghanistan, the danger of the Taliban and the necessity of victory, are arguments for c), not a). He doesn't have a convincing argument to the effect that the battle against the Taliban can be won with the current level of resources, so he should be arguing for a very large increase, the kind that would require either a material increase in the rate of income tax or cuts in other government spending. Aaro is, specifically, not spelling out the (political) costs of doing Afghanistan properly.
His final paragraph appears to explicitly rule out c), with a rather flippant remark about "dead teenagers". As far as I can tell, General Aaronovitch's strategy for the Afghan War is simple attrition; to wait it out with our current forces, trust in our national resolve, and assume that we are more committed to our vision of the political future of Afghanistan than the Taliban (who live there) are committed to theirs. History's usually not kind to this kind of general.
(and note that of course, this column was written about a zillion times between 1963 and 1972 about Vietnam)