This obligatory "listening to the generals" approach ignores that the generals' job is to accomplish the mission they're sent on. It's not their job to decide what that mission is, what its scope should be, and whether it's worth committing U.S. blood and treasure to. That's the job of the civilian leadership, aka the president.
As for Rick Santorum, his answer, in response to the Bales incident, was actually closer to the truth: "Given all of these additional problems, we have to either make the decision to make a full commitment, which this president has not done, or we have to decide to get out and probably get out sooner given the president's decision to get out in 2014."
Given that doubling down for a full commitment (Another decade? Two decades? Or should we aim for a full century?) without a clear mission would be doubling down on insanity, the answer has to be: "get out sooner."
The only GOP candidate who has had a consistently clear position on the war is Ron Paul. "The truth is, I'm trying to save the Republican Party from themselves because they want perpetual wars," he said on Face the Nation. "It was a waste, there's not gonna be a happy ending, and I think the Republicans have dug a hole for themselves because they're trying to out-militarize the president, say 'we should do more.' Yet 75 percent of the American people say 'we've had enough.'"
And yet even though, as Paul notes, he's the one in agreement with the vast majority of the country, the media mostly treat his foreign policy views as something your crazy uncle might say after one too many drinks.
Surely we can all agree that the first rule of military action should be: do no harm to your own national security. But right now we are doing a lot of harm, losing hearts and minds every day and making our country ultimately less safe as a result.
So, this war is not just a tragic waste of lives and money, it's also weakening our national security by strengthening the resolve of those who will stop at nothing to harm us. And it's deepening our involvement in a civil war that is never going to be resolved while we're in the mix.
"War is destructive of the human spirit," said Vietnam vet and military scholar Andrew Bacevich in an interview with Bill Moyers. "War compromises our humanity."
This one is now compromising our humanity, our national security, our standing in the world, and our claim to the moral high ground.