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If you want to see what it looks like when Marines go out on patrol in Afghanistan, look at Chuck Liddy's photo gallery on our site. We will soon have 30,000 more troops on the ground,  patrolling and trying to win over Afghans. Here, Marines help a young boy with burns from a pot of boiling water that spilled on him.

The U. S. military leadership is trying to use the lessons learned in Iraq in trying to defeat Taliban and  Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan.  That is, to get out among the populace, help them, and provide them with security.   Jay Price's story in today's N&O and Chuck's photos showed what this actually looks like.

And what it looks like is risky.  In the story and in the photos, you can see and hear the tension.  It's one thing to launch pilotless drones against the enemy, or barrel through the countryside in heavily armored vehicles. It's another thing to dismount and walk through areas where troops are exposed to ambushes and IEDs.  

I recently read a  book, Fiasco, by military reporter Tom Ricks, who covered the early stages of the Iraq war.  Basically, he discusses in depth the failure of the Bush administration to prepare for the aftermath of the invasion.  One big question I have is whether the counter-insurgency strategy that was finally led by Gen. David Petraeus will work as well in Afghanistan. 

Here is one pessimistic view.

The problem with pessimistic views is that they tend to make the best-case argument for the enemy and put the worst possible face on our chances. Here is a more optimistic view from the secretary-general of NATO, although I wish he hadn't used the "light at the end of the tunnel" imagery.  That was a phrase used 40 years ago by Gen. William Westmoreland to describe our prospects in Vietnam.  I don't know if the secretary-general was being ironic or just tone deaf.

--Dan Barkin

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About the blogger

Dan Barkin, a senior editor, is a veteran of more than three decades in journalism and came to the N&O in 1996 as business editor. He holds a bachelor's in business administration from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland. He and his wife live in Clayton with their two cats.