By Matthew Rothschild on August 16, 2010

General David Petraeus is in the midst of his Afghanistan offensive.

But it’s not against the Taliban; it’s against those in Congress, and those of us in the public, who oppose the ongoing—and escalating—Afghan war.

Petraeus is preparing the battlefield for next summer, when President Obama is on record as saying the withdrawal from Afghanistan will commence.

Petraeus announced very publicly over the weekend that he didn’t take the job as top general in Afghanistan to preside over “a graceful exit,” and he affirmed that he may advise Obama to delay the withdrawal.

Some in the media claim Petraeus is trying to strengthen his position against those in the Administration who want to greatly reduce the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

But I’m not buying that.

I believe Petraeus is doing what his commander in chief wants him to do.

Look, if Obama didn’t want Petraeus popping up all over the weekend talk shows and sitting down with the New York Times, he would have ordered the general back to Afghanistan.

But for the White House, something was more important than the upcoming assault on Kandahar.

And that’s to give Obama room to retreat from his pledge last December.

And even that pledge was hedged like a French garden: “We will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground,” he said at the time.

Watch for those words “conditions on the ground” to come around again next July.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “Global Warming and the Pakistani Flood.”

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Julia Burke
Ali Abd ElRahman believes the United States has the potential to take a leadership role in food...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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