Joe Klein has crafted an extremely transparent and sloppy white-washing of the tension between Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Klein calls it all “smoke and puffery” and explains,
the controversy was all about a comment McChrystal made during the question-and-answer session, when he said a switch from counterinsurgency to a counterterrorism strategy, in which American troops are withdrawn and the war against al-Qaeda is fought mostly with drones and special forces, would be “shortsighted.” A week later, the President said essentially the same thing at a meeting of congressional leaders.
Doubly false. Klein misrepresents both McChrystal’s words and Obama’s and then proceeds to build a Time magazine article out of the double fiction. Here is what McChrystal actually said:
A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.
Not a word about drones and special forces. It’s true that McChrystal was responding to a question that alluded to drone strikes and such in Pakistan. However, in answering the question he moved on to a related but larger point; namely, the one that appears above. Afghanistan must be left in a stable position.
It is Klein’s contention that Obama said “essentially the same thing at a meeting of congressional leaders.”
Okay, when? I’ve read that Obama told lawmakers “that he is not contemplating reducing troop levels in the near term under any scenario.” How does that address the question of leaving Afghanistan a stable or unstable country?
This is no minor issue. And it’s also not an easily reconcilable one. Indications from the Obama administration, in fact, point to the president’s not sharing McChrystal’s opinion on the matter. Consider this exchange from Meet the Press last Sunday. David Gregory played a clip of McChrystal’s comment for U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and then asked:
GREGORY: Is the president committed to at least not leaving Afghanistan unless it is stable?
MS. RICE: The president is committed to doing what is essential to keep America safe. And obviously we have made important and substantial investments in Afghanistan. We are not talk — nobody’s talking about walking away from Afghanistan.
GREGORY: No, but will the president stay in Afghanistan as long — until it is stable?
MS. RICE: The, the president will do what is necessary to keep America safe. And that relates not only to Afghanistan, but Pakistan, where we face a very serious…
GREGORY: But you won’t commit to staying in Afghanistan until it’s stable?
MS. RICE: We’ll, we’ll commit to staying in Afghanistan as long as it takes to keep America safe, David. We have challenges and threats. . . .
GREGORY: But those could be two different things, right?
MS. RICE: They have–there are challenges and threats that face the United States that come from multiple quarters.
GREGORY: Right. But you can see, those, those could be two different things.
MS. RICE: They may or may not be two different things. I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of this review. It’s a very important step that needs to be taken to ensure that we are not just reacting and operating on autopilot. The president’s responsibility to the American people is to look at circumstances as they evolve, to make a judgment about what is necessary in the current circumstances to ensure that we are doing all that we can to prevent al-Qaeda from being in a position to attack us, whether in–from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Southeast Asia or any of the other places where we have been active and on the offensive against al-Qaeda.
Does Time fact-check? Does Joe Klein care anymore?