As we begin to hear carping from some circles that Barack Obama is cutting and running in Afghanistan, it’s worth noting that few of such critics seem capable of defining in any significant way what sort of achievable U.S. mission in that country an even longer military commitment might achieve.

Are we still trying to turn Afghanistan into a very different kind of society, as the Soviet Union once so fruitlessly sought? Citing what he’s heard first-hand from his friends who have fought and worked in that country, Andrew Sullivan tartly notes such a goal would be “as insane as, well, a 5st state on the moon.” And riffing from this observation, Kevin Drum sums it all up:

Our exit from Afghanistan is going to be messy and bloody. Republicans are going to have a field day no matter what. But our only other option is, almost literally, to stay there forever. The idea that the United States was ever going to remake Afghanistan in a few years or even a few decades was a ridiculous pipe dream, and it still is. We’ve now accomplished our military mission there about as well as it ever could have been accomplished, and it’s time to leave.

I am sure that there are some who have honorable reasons for favoring a continuation of the Afghanistan mission. But the mindless notion that we have to “win” impossible wars, as Mitt Romney seems to be suggesting, is not honorable at all. So long as he keeps this up, Romney has no grounds for laughing at Newt Gingrich’s moon colonization fantasies. At least Newt’s not talking–so far at least–about sending up the troops and keeping them there forever.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.