I have been openly critical of Obama's Afghanistan war strategy on my radio show. I saw it as a continuation of the previous administration's policies -- which is as damning a thing as I could think to say about it. After reading the excerpts I no longer feel that way but am far more worried about who really is in charge. Woodward reports of Obama's dilemma in his 'I am the tape recorder' fashion,
He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end.
"So what's my option? You have given me one option," Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command.
"We were going to meet here today to talk about three options," Obama said sternly. "You agreed to go back and work those up."
The only real option offered him was a surge of 40,000 troops and the beginnings of a drawdown in 2016 from the war in Afghanistan -- everything else was a variation on those same ideas. Not what he wanted or asked for but it was where the military brass were steering him. Gaming him if you will. As he tells the brass that his lawyerly compromise of a 30,000 troop surge and a drawdown in 2011 is what they'll have to accept, there is a moment where he looks to call their bluff and just get out noting that would be the expedient thing to do politically,
"It'd be a lot easier for me to go out and give a speech saying, 'You know what? The American people are sick of this war, and we're going to put in 10,000 trainers because that's how we're going to get out of there.' "
It was apparent that a part of Obama wanted to give precisely that speech. He seemed to be road-testing it.Sadly, Obama is swayed by Defense Secretary Gates and the people who seem to want a forever war and he opts for the compromise. He tries to define victory -- something few people have been able to do when discussing the afghan conflict calling for a plan that will deny safe haven to al Qaeda, to "degrade,” rather than defeat the Taliban insurgency as well as provide guidelines for building sufficient Afghan capacity to secure and govern their country. An approach that is not fully resourced counterinsurgency or nation building -- just a way out.
In reading this I was reminded of the Dwight Eisenhower farewell address he gave 50 years ago and the warning about the Military Industrial Complex, that came with it. His words have as much relevance today as they did then but clearly have not been heeded. There is an awful lot at stake here and cable news as well as the rest of the MSM are doing a poor job of explaining it. When the duly elected civilian head of state tells his generals he wants to see plans that will take them out of a bloody conflict that the people are tired of, he should get what it is he asks for. Anything else is unacceptable.