In November 1963, when South Vietnam's first president, Ngo Dinh Diem, was going off the reservation and alienating his U.S. patrons, a group of South Vietnamese generals helpfully staged a coup and assassinated him.
Fast-forward a half-century to Afghanistan, where members of President Barack Obama's administration can (thankfully) only splutter, sotto voce, to the New York Times that frustrations with President Hamid Karzai's government are driving the United States to consider speeding up the complete withdrawal of troops a so- called zero option.
Let's face it: A pullout of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 is undesirable. Current plans to keep 8,000 to 12,000 mostly U.S. troops in Afghanistan to train and support Afghan troops, and an unspecified number in a counterterrorist role, will make it easier to advance the one abiding U.S. interest: to prevent the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its allies. And any discussion of a withdrawal of U.S. forces raises serious questions about the continuation of U.S. civilian economic assistance.