We must commit military violence until we succeed, because if we fail we will have to commit more military violence for a very long time.
We must continue this war, because if we don't, we're going to have to continue this war for a long time into the future.
What, that's not what Ross Douthat is saying?
I'm never quite amazed at the arguments for starting or for perpetuating military violence. Strip them down, and they'd be silly if they weren't so devastating.
Douthat also has some problems with language in this column that are worthy further critique. There's no real "paradox" in saying if we succeed we get to leave more quickly, but it's this sentence that disturbs me with its inherent contradictions:
"We can’t hold the current course indefinitely, and we won’t: President Obama’s decision to set a public deadline was a mistake, but everyone knows there are limits to how long the surge of forces can go on."
We can't keep this up "indefinitely," but it's a mistake to actually state a deadline publicly, but everybody knows there's a limit--a limit which is, evidently given the mistake of a public deadline, "indefinite." That sort of argument--it can't be indefinite but we can't actually say what the limit is (so it's actually "indefinite") is the sort of logic used to perpetuate long-term war.