Commentary Magazine


Slowing to a Crawl

The New York Times observes:

The disclosure that the United States ambassador in Kabul has expressed written opposition to deploying more American troops to Afghanistan lays bare the fierce debate within the Obama administration over the direction of the war, even after weeks of deliberations and with the president on the verge of a decision.

And for those not quite privy to the ways of leaks and press manipulation, the Times notes that the anti-counterinsurgency-we’d-like-this-on-the-cheap contingent (Gens. Axelrod, Biden, and Emanuel, we presume) “seemed pleased that his perspective had entered the public debate, which has been dominated for two months by the leaked assessment of General McChrystal.” In other words, time to leak, gum up the works, and make it that much more difficult to come to a conclusion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for one, is fed up with the leaking and has exclaimed that “everybody ought to just shut up.”

One senses that the president is buffeted by this and that group, seemingly unwilling or unable to just decide. The helpful spinners both on and off the record assure us the president is being more “assertive” and “challenging” the advice. But still, alas, not reaching a final call. How’s it working out? “The behind-the-scenes tug-of-war over policy has become increasingly bitter.” Not as bitter as I imagine those in the field and their families may become as the seminars churn, the equivocation continues over the precise numbers to be deployed (38,000 or 36, 500? or maybe just 26,750?), and both our allies and adversaries look on slack-jawed.

It is quite a spectacle, one unlikely to endear the president to the voters or bolster his image as a wartime leader.