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One of the arguments that runs through the Obama administration's Afghan strategy debate (as recounted by Bob Woodward) is the idea, advanced by the U.S. military, that killing Afghans in pursuit of al-Qaeda and the Taliban is counterproductive without a broader effort to assuage their grievances and improve their country :

At the Nov. 11 meeting in which Obama expressed his frustration, Petraeus cited the war game as evidence that the hybrid option would not work.

It would alienate the Afghan people whom U.S. forces should be protecting, he said. "You start going out tromping around, disrupting the enemy, and you're making a lot of enemies. . . . So what have you accomplished?"

This makes sense. If you're just dropping bombs and assassinating people in a country without regard for much else, they're going to be resentful and seek retaliation. But why is this understanding never advanced to the strategic level? The terrorist threat to the U.S. is global. If we're so solicitous of Afghan civilians that we're willing to risk over 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops and invest billions of dollars into the country to guard against blow back, shouldn't we be considering the ramifications of U.S. policies elsewhere?

(AP Photo)