“The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of “˜X’ number of troops in Afghanistan,” said Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser. “We have an objective of making sure there is no safe haven for al-Qaida in Afghanistan and making sure that the Afghan government has a security force that is sufficient to ensure the stability of the Afghan government.” [Washington Post]

ON A conference call earlier this week, which I was on, Ben Rhodes made it clear that the Obama administration is ready to face reality in Afghanistan even if the Washington media elite is not. The call was in advance of President Karzai’s visit to the White House today, where troop withdrawal in 2014 will be discussed.

No troops in Afghanistan after 2014, the so-called “zero option,” has nothing to do with “losing” Afghanistan, which couldn’t be won by anyone but the Afghans. What the U.S. did “win” was removing Al Qaeda as a force in that country, something Obama pledged to do and did in his first term.

The Taliban is an indigenous group, many of whom are violent thugs, but there is no getting rid of them, only finding a way to appeal to their self-interest.

None of this is playing well with the right over at the National Review, who remains in denial of what the 21st century means to U.S. military intervention and engagement, which must finally change with the times.

Quoting Ruth Marcus, seen in the video above with Andrea Mitchell, the National Review and Marcus represent the Washington elite who maintains facing reality means “”˜we give up,’ “˜we quit,’ “˜the progress that we made is untenable and we might as well not even try to keep it.’”

The 21st century requires more strategic thinking than guns and bombs. It’s not just about drones and Special Forces, though we should continue to challenge the effectiveness of drone policy. It’s that U.S. effectiveness around the world will be in partnerships that must be led by economic development focus and creating the opportunity to link up public institutions and private enterprise in a new way to manifest lasting diplomatic cooperation.

Little known or credit has been given to Secretary Hillary Clinton, who has begun this enterprising diplomatic shift, making it easier for U.S. businesses to engage around the world, which helps everyone. Clinton talks about this aspect of diplomacy regularly and it’s part of her entire theory of diplomatic engagement in the modern era.

The companion to this is continually stressing the importance of involving women in the economic and political future of developing nations, which cannot be stable without them.

President Obama’s consideration of removing all troops from Afghanistan is a fundamental shift in U.S. thinking on foreign policy. It includes acknowledging that no matter when we get out there will be carnage in our wake, because no one can do for Afghanistan what the people and their leaders won’t do for themselves.

The U.S. will continue to fund the security apparatus in that country, which depends on our engagement, but not U.S. troops. It’s also required to make any economic advancement possible, which is the only hope of any developing nation.

This piece has been updated.