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View Full Version : Nat'l Security Barack Obama is in danger of giving deliberation a bad name.


patteeu
11-15-2009, 09:57 PM
Even his allies are starting to wonder about whether he's got what it takes to lead us in Afghanistan

Obama must rethink rethinking Afghanistan (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-mcmanus15-2009nov15,0,381782.column)
His strategy deliberations are starting to look like dangerous indecision.
By Doyle McManus

November 15, 2009

Barack Obama is in danger of giving deliberation a bad name.

The decision about whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan was never going to be easy, but events -- and a collision of egos in Kabul -- have conspired to make it even harder.

Obama was right to insist on a full review of whether U.S. interests are better served by expanding the American military footprint in Afghanistan or shrinking it.

But now, two months into his second "comprehensive policy review," after eight Cabinet-level meetings and several slipped target dates, the president still hasn't made up his mind.

In George W. Bush, we had a president who shot first and asked questions later. In Barack Obama, we have a president who asks the right questions but hesitates to pull the trigger.

Three weeks ago, former Vice President Dick Cheney accused Obama of "dithering." At the time, the charge sounded premature and partisan -- but now some of Obama's own supporters have begun to wonder whether Cheney was right.

Last week, the president's indecision became even more apparent after White House aides let it be known that he was asking the military for more "exit strategies" -- what one official called "off-ramps" -- in case things go badly.

Those questions came after Obama's ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, sent two eleventh-hour memos questioning one of the basic premises of the war: whether the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai could ever reform itself enough to make success feasible.

At the end of the week, officials said the president and his advisors weren't seriously considering reducing U.S. troop strength; they are still converging on a narrow range of options that would send tens of thousands of additional troops. The debate, instead, is over how to define the mission -- and how to build those "exit ramps" without undercutting it.

Those are hard questions to answer -- harder still when a policy debate lasts for months and becomes public. These aren't just style points; the battle in Washington is causing real problems for U.S. foreign policy, beginning with mixed messages to both allies and adversaries.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates described the dilemma succinctly last week: "How do we signal resolve -- and at the same time signal to the Afghans and the American people that this isn't an open-ended commitment?"

The long debate has made Obama look indecisive and uncertain -- because he has been. And the leaks of conflicting positions have given his critics ammunition for the postmortem debate over any decision he makes. If Obama chooses to go small, hawks will accuse him of ignoring the advice of his own military commander, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who asked for 40,000 additional troops. If he goes big, doves will accuse him of ignoring the advice of Ambassador Eikenberry, who said the additional troops wouldn't do much good.

When he ran for president, "no drama Obama" prided himself on a campaign organization that never aired internal disputes and always closed ranks in common cause. Not in this process, which has turned into a very un-Obamalike battle of leaks and counterleaks. This much transparency, alas, creates a problem: Washingtonians love to keep track of winners and losers. A well-managed process gives losers a chance to lick their wounds in private, without suffering public damage to their reputations. This one is more likely to end in public recriminations.

The debate has frayed relationships between the military officers who proposed the Afghan escalation and the civilian politicians (Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) who run the White House. White House officials were irritated when McChrystal's strategy proposal leaked in October, seeing it as an attempt by the military to box Obama in.

The public friction between McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired general, has now complicated things further. One of the keys to U.S. success in Iraq was the seamless partnership between military commander David H. Petraeus and civilian Ambassador Ryan Crocker. In Afghanistan, in contrast, the two top U.S. officials on the ground have repeatedly butted heads -- a situation that has much of Washington speculating whether, once Obama makes his decision, one of them will have to go.

No president should commit troops to a war if he's not satisfied that the strategy is sound. No general should be given troops unless the premises of his strategy have been questioned. As Obama noted, he'd rather make a good decision than a fast one.

Obama needed to reassure the American public -- especially his own Democratic Party -- that he had considered every alternative before deciding to escalate this unpromising war. That's one reason all these White House sessions have -- unusually -- been publicized in advance, photographed and described to reporters.

At this point, Obama appears to be hesitating for reasons of both substance and politics. Last spring, he could hope for an Afghan government run by someone other than Karzai; now that hope is gone. He has read the history of the Vietnam War, so he's worried about getting in deeper without an off-ramp in case things go bad. He doesn't think he can sell escalation to skeptical Democrats without that off-ramp.

Eliot Cohen, a military historian who worked in the George W. Bush administration (and who supports sending more troops), described the dilemma this way: "If he goes ahead with this decision, he's basically going to be a war president." That means devoting more budget money -- and even more important, more of his own time and political capital -- to waging the war. It could also mean paring back his domestic agenda, already slowed by economic and political adversity. It's no wonder he's hesitating.

But in the end, he still has to make a choice. When Obama launched this review of his strategy in Afghanistan, it was a good thing. But the longer it goes on, the more costly it becomes.

Obama has made a big deal about wanting to get this right before he sends men and women into harms way. Has anyone told him that we already have tens of thousands of men and women in harms way now, waiting for him to either get them out of there or to send reinforcements?

HonestChieffan
11-16-2009, 07:05 AM
yes but don't discount the value of a good t shirt campaign.

http://iowntheworld.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/obamaotshirts-500x337.jpg

wild1
11-16-2009, 07:24 AM
It's obvious, he's putting the decision off because - given his tanking poll numbers - he doesn't want to use any of his remaining political capital on it. He cares more about ramming Obamacare through this year than he does about Afghanistan.

BigRedChief
11-16-2009, 07:30 AM
It's obvious, he's putting the decision off because - given his tanking poll numbers -huh?:shake:

The Afghanistan decision will effect his whole presidency, his legacy. He's not concerned with current poll numbers. Hw weill be held accountable 3 years from now on this decision, not next week.

patteeu
11-16-2009, 07:58 AM
huh?:shake:

The Afghanistan decision will effect his whole presidency, his legacy. He's not concerned with current poll numbers. Hw weill be held accountable 3 years from now on this decision, not next week.

I agree with wild1. It will be harder for Obama to get his domestic agenda passed once he stirs up significant controversy over Afghanistan. And any decision he makes is liable to stir up that controversy. Look at how much trouble the Bush administration had getting anything done domestically during his second term. SS reform was a non-starter and he wasn't even able to make his tax cuts permanent.

BigRedChief
11-16-2009, 08:03 AM
I agree with wild1. It will be harder for Obama to get his domestic agenda passed once he stirs up significant controversy over Afghanistan. And any decision he makes is liable to stir up that controversy. Look at how much trouble the Bush administration had getting anything done domestically during his second term. SS reform was a non-starter and he wasn't even able to make his tax cuts permanent.Thats because Bush was one of the worst Presidents evah. :Poke:

I'm not saying Politics aren't involved, of course any decision on this level is, thats why its a duly elected non-military person making that decision. He will be held accountable by the American public, not the Generals.

Okay, so on your premise that he's only holding off a decision based on politics, how long does he wait? After health care? immigration reform? An energy bill? He can't just put this off.

patteeu
11-16-2009, 08:24 AM
Thats because Bush was one of the worst Presidents evah. :Poke:

I'm not saying Politics aren't involved, of course any decision on this level is, thats why its a duly elected non-military person making that decision. He will be held accountable by the American public, not the Generals.

Okay, so on your premise that he's only holding off a decision based on politics, how long does he wait? After health care? immigration reform? An energy bill? He can't just put this off.

I'm not saying it's *only* because of politics. I'm just saying that it's partly because the decision has major political implications. He's trying to figure out how to navigate the political risk instead of exclusively looking at the decision in terms of what's best for the war effort.

I think you're right that he can't put this off until after he gets these domestic things done.

BigRedChief
11-16-2009, 08:37 AM
I think you're right that he can't put this off until after he gets these domestic things done.
Thats my point. Theres always going to be "something" that will require political capital. Making a decision on Afghanistan is always going to conflict with a domestic agenda push.

wild1
11-16-2009, 10:01 AM
Making a decision on Afghanistan is always going to conflict with a domestic agenda push.

Precisely. That's why he refuses to make one.

KC Dan
11-16-2009, 10:19 AM
Someone (don't remember who) on one of the Sunday morning talk shows stated they felt he was waiting and delaying hopeful for a final Health Care vote before acting on Afghanistan. I sincerly hope that isn't the case.

Chief Henry
11-16-2009, 10:31 AM
Precisely. That's why he refuses to make one.

"present"

wild1
11-16-2009, 11:47 AM
Someone (don't remember who) on one of the Sunday morning talk shows stated they felt he was waiting and delaying hopeful for a final Health Care vote before acting on Afghanistan. I sincerly hope that isn't the case.

He is.

"present"

Precisely.

RINGLEADER
11-16-2009, 12:16 PM
I already stated my problem with what Obama is doing on the other thread. It isn't that he's being deliberative or cautious. It's that he doesn't want to make a hard decision without having political cover. Unfortunately, the two are at odds with each other.

David Broder seems to have said it better than I have tried to do in the various threads this morning:

"The more President Barack Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose. And he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision, whether or not it is right."

patteeu
11-16-2009, 12:25 PM
I already stated my problem with what Obama is doing on the other thread. It isn't that he's being deliberative or cautious. It's that he doesn't want to make a hard decision without having political cover. Unfortunately, the two are at odds with each other.

David Broder seems to have said it better than I have tried to do in the various threads this morning:

"The more President Barack Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose. And he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision, whether or not it is right."

Yep. He keeps telling us that stabilizing the region is necessary so it's time to pick a plan and work it until it either makes progress or needs to be replaced with a different plan. While Obama dithers in order to make sure that he doesn't send people to execute a flawed plan, he's got people already in country trying to hold down the fort and waiting for some cavalry to come over the hill.

Chief Henry
11-16-2009, 01:21 PM
Obama, to our troops in Afghanistan = "PRESENT"


This shouldn't surprise anyone. He didn't want to vote on difficult issues in Illinois.

One can learn alot about people by just observing what they've done and who they hang with. T

This delay by Obama should NOT surprise anyone.