This story originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
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[Note for TomDispatch Readers:Both Nick Turse and I have new books out which provide the inspiration for today's post. For the latest review of mine,The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, by Mamoon Alabassi at Middle East online, click here. ("As editor of TomDispatch.com, Engelhardt has provided a pioneering platform to a number of illuminating articles...But excellent editors are not necessarily outstanding authors.The American Way of War shows that Engelhardt is among the exceptions.") For a host of other reviews, click here. Nick's invaluable book,The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan, includes essays by a wonderful list of TomDispatch favorites and others, including Tariq Ali, Andrew Bacevich, Malalai Joya, Chalmers Johnson, Ann Jones, and Robert Dreyfuss. Remarkably enough, it's the only book around that, as its title indicates, advocates the eerily missing option in Washington's Afghanistan War policy. Just published, it's a must for your bookshelf. Mike Davis, author ofPlanet of Slums , calls it "a pathbreaking synthesis... on the illusions of empire and the impossibility of 'victory' in Afghanistan. As the contributors so eloquently emphasize, the only realistic and humane option can be spelled in three letters: O-U-T." And here's a modest reminder: If you are already a regular visitor to Amazon.com, think about starting to make a habit of going to it via TomDispatch book links or book-cover links. If you do so, no matter what you buy -- from books this site recommends to DVDs, cameras, Kindles, and computers -- we get a cut of your purchase (at no cost to you). Many of you are already doing this and, believe me, it's helping to keep us afloat! Tom]
Yes, it would be funny if it weren't so grim. After all, when it comes to squandering money and resources in strange and distant places (or even here at home), you can count on the practitioners of American-style war to be wildly over the top.
Oh, those madcap Pentagon bureaucrats and the zany horde of generals and admirals who go with them! Give them credit: no one on Earth knows how to throw a war like they do -- and they never go home.
In fact, when it comes to linking "profligate" to "war," with all the lies, manipulations, and cost overruns that give it that proverbial pizzazz, Americans should stand tall. We are absolutely #1!
Hence, the very first TomDispatch American Way of War Quiz. Admittedly, it covers only the last four weeks of war news you wouldn't believe if it weren't in the papers, but we could have done this for any month since October 2001.
Now's your chance to pit your wits (and your ability to suspend disbelief) against the best the Pentagon has to offer -- and we're talking about all seventeen-and-a-half miles of corridors in that five-sided, five-story edifice that has triple the square footage of the Empire State Building. To weigh your skills on the TomDispatch Scales of War™, take the 11-question pop quiz below, checking your answers against ours (with accompanying explanations), and see if you deserve to be a four-star general, a gun-totin' mercenary, or a mere private.
1. With President Obama's Afghan surge of 30,000 U.S. troops complete, an administration review of war policy due in December, and fears rising that new war commander General David Petraeus might then ask for more troops, what did the general do last week?
a. He informed the White House that he now had too many troops for reasonable operations in Afghanistan and proposed that a drawdown begin immediately.
b. He assured the White House that he was satisfied with the massive surge in troops (civilian employees, contractors, and CIA personnel) and would proceed as planned.
c. He asked for more troops now.
Correct answer: c. General Petraeus has already reportedly requested an extra mini-surge of 2,000 more troops from NATO, and probably from U.S. reserves as well, including more trainers for the Afghan military. In interviews as August ended, he was still insisting that he had "the structures, people, concepts, and resources required to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign." But that was the summer silly season. This is September, a time for cooler heads and larger demands.
2. With President Obama's announced July 2011 drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in mind, the Pentagon has already:
a. Begun organizing an orderly early 2011 withdrawal of troopsfrom combat outposts and forward operating bases to larger facilities to facilitate the president's plan.
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