None of this means that arming the tribes is necessarily the wrong idea. And it is to Gen. Petraeus’ great credit that he has backed away from the thought that ideas and tactics can be exported from Iraq to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the discussion of how to proceed in Afghanistan is increasingly dominated by thinkers and soldiers who made their names in Iraq, and the theme of exporting good ideas from Iraq into Afghanistan is almost universal in their op-eds, speeches, and magazine profiles. That doesn’t mean their ideas are necessarily wrong; it just means they seem not to have done enough homework yet to be controlling U.S. policy. But, it seems the journalists who cover them (with a few notable exceptions) haven’t done their homework, either. The result (for now, at least) is a very public discussion about repeating a failed policy—surely the one thing Afghanistan does not need.

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Joshua Foust is a military consultant. He is a contributor to PBS Need to Know, a contributing editor at Current Intelligence, and blogs about Central Asia and the Caucasus at