Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Endless Seminar

Michael Gerson writes:

In the beginning, the Obama administration directed a spotlight toward its careful, thoughtful decision-making process on Afghanistan. National security meetings were announced, photographed and highlighted in background briefings to the media. President Obama would apply the methods of the academy to the art of war — the University of Chicago meets West Point — thus assuring a skittish public that deliberation had preceded decision.

Now the president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are desperately trying to jerk the spotlight away from a dysfunctional Afghan decision-making process in which chaos has preceded choice, complicating every possible outcome.

The president supposes he has endless time to meander through the reading list, consult with some visiting gurus, and send research assistants back for more data. He operates without regard to the real world — the troops in the field, his plummeting poll numbers, and the growing skittishness in his own party. Ironic, isn’t it, that he and his netroot cohorts loved to portray George W. Bush as impervious to and sealed off from the real world. Bush of course managed to wade through the Pentagon double-talk, fire the right people, hire better people, and turn the war in Iraq around. Obama? He’s still in blissful isolation, now at least until Thanksgiving, we are told.

It’s unnerving, to say the least, to observe a White House so entralled by its own process (or in thrall to it?) that it would delay implementation of a new war strategy and imperil the president’s own standing as commander in chief. Obama may be angry about the leaks, but he has only himself to blame.