And now, the most interesting two minutes in television, the latest footnotes to the American war on terrorism.
The sudden collapse of the Taliban across much of Afghanistan has sent analysts and commentators scurrying to revise their estimates. Tony Cordesman, the highly-regarded ABC News military analyst, has hurried out a first report entitled, "Why the Taliban Collapsed so Quickly." First among his reasons, their "alienation from the population."
Two weeks ago, Cordesman wrote of the Taliban's popularity that, "we have already shown that the Taliban is not fragile, or at least not fragile enough." Six days ago, he said an advance against Kabul would likely have to wait until spring.
The Los Angeles Times is now saying the U.S. air campaign was the critical factor. "Heavier than ever use of smart bombs and missiles, guided by special forces units, able to infiltrate even a Taliban stronghold such as Kabul, and supply precise real-time target information make air power a devastating weapon."
And the Times said of the U.S. air campaign, "though it starts slowly and progress is hard to measure from the outside, the approach offers the possibility of hollowing out an enemy force, leaving a front-line shell that cannot be reinforced or sustained once a ground offensive begins."
For some naysayers, though, there was just not enough time to reverse course. The liberal journalist Nicholas von Hoffman, writing in the New York Observer edition that hit newsstands Tuesday wrote, "we are mapless, we are lost, and we are distracted by gusts of wishful thinking that our high command could believe the Afghani peasantry or even the Taliban would change sides after a few weeks of bombing! This is fantasizing in high places."
Meanwhile, the public continues to approve strongly of nearly everyone associated with the war on terror. The Gallup poll gives the following job approval ratings: President Bush, 89 percent. Secretary of State Powell, 87 percent. Congress, 77 percent, the postal service, 77 percent. The news media, 43 percent.