Indeed, that bag of capital has been spent. Unless U.S. intelligence has truly solid information on missions that can be carried out without much civilian fallout, Obama should use troops as a support for whatever development (which can include the use of outright bribery) can be achieved under current conditions. Over the long-term, al-Qaeda and the Taliban could perhaps be rolled back if law and order could steadily encroach upon their strongholds.
Rather than plumb the depths of possible unknown unknowns, the media and the American people should critically evaluate what Obama has publicly stated-and take him at his word. The president-elect has distinguished himself to some degree in terms of his foreign-policy thinking, but the media and the president's mobilized constituencies should be willing to push back on a new administration to prevent a descent towards the kind of mediocrity that neither the country nor the world can afford at this time.
Ximena Ortiz is a senior editor at The National Interest.