You have the best generals in the world – McChrystal on counterterrorism and Petraeus on counterinsurgency – the best in the world who know exactly how this is done and who conclude you cannot do a counterterrorism strategy, only counterinsurgency. And all of a sudden he is relying on Biden, Rahm Emanuel, and himself to go against the advice of these experts? Hard to believe.
It is. (And don’t forget David Axelrod.) More than one conservative colleague has remarked upon the inordinate role that advisers who lack the necessary credentials and expertise have in shaping foreign policy in this administration. We are told that the notion of putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and undermining Bibi Netanyahu among Israeli voters was the brainchild of Emanuel and Axelrod. Axelrod in particular is regularly sent out to opine on foreign policy on the TV talk shows and plays a central role both at internal meetings and with outside groups to whom the administration is trying to pitch its foreign-policy gambits.
There are several potential explanations — a weak group of advisers who are supposed to have national-security portfolios, a reliance by the president on a close-knit set of aides, and, most disturbingly, the predilection of seeing all national-security issues through the prism of domestic policies. (And then there is the frightening possibility that Obama considers Biden, who hasn’t gotten a national-security issue right in 30 years, an “expert.”)
How much will it cost while we need to pay for ObamaCare? Don’t we need the Left to get through our agenda? How can we win the 2012 election if we are bogged down in Afghanistan? These seem to be the determining factors — as the president himself often articulates. So naturally, the political gurus rather than the national-security gurus have the upper hand. It’s not surprising then that issues get prolonged, the fights take place in the media, and horse-trading and compromising take precedence over smart strategic analysis. It is all the tell-tale sign of domestic pols trying to shove national-security policy-making into the meat grinder of domestic politics. No wonder the American public trusts the military rather than the president on Afghanistan — at least the generals are focused on the merits, not the politics.