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It Could Be Worse; It Could Be Snowing

November 12th, 2009 - 6:27 pm

So the forceful decision in our War of Necessity is… Afghanistanization. Or something. Anyway, policy reviews going on since, supposedly, February, have resulted in this:

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Obama still is close to announcing his revamped war strategy, most likely shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends on Nov. 19.

The president raised questions at a war council meeting on Wednesday, however, that could alter the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and what the timeline would be for their presence in the war zone, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Obama’s thinking.

Throwing out all the Pentagon recommendations doesn’t bother me, to be quite frank. President Bush did exactly that in September, 2001. Bush’s JCS presented him with what the Pentagon typically comes up with — a big, slow build-up, followed by a great big invasion. The whole thing would have taken six-12 months, by my reckoning — and that’s under ideal circumstances. Instead, Bush told them all to try again.

The JCS responded with a new, “small footprint” plan, that ended Taliban rule in just six weeks. A good leader knows when to tell his subordinates that they’re effing clueless. So don’t fret too much if Obama doesn’t necessarily like the taste of whatever swill the Pentagon is dishing out. The Pentagon has acres of no-good plans, and when the stuff hits the fan, you can guess which plans get pulled off the shelf first.

Then again — Bush did all this in a few days. Obama’s been at it since August. Well, March, actually. And he decided on a new direction back in 2008. Or maybe ’07. As Jules Crittenden describes the process towards developing a system for reaching a decision to give the matter some considered consideration:

In fairness, even if the president did declare back in 2008 this war was a vital national security interest, and he did signal last spring he was on board with counterinsurgency, and even if he did appoint Gen. Stanley McChrystal to get the job done in May, the general’s recommendations only arrived in August, and the president didn’t look at them until, what, late September, and he’s been really busy this whole time letting Congress bollix his health-care initiative, throwing Eastern Europe under the bus and flying to Copenhagen, that kind of thing, so he’s only been able to squeeze in seven high-level national security meetings, or is it eight? Is it so unreasonable to ask for new options on top of the new options that he asked for on top of the new options that McChrystal gave him? Meanwhile, China’s ass wants kissing and then we’re into the holidays…

Now, I was told back in 2008 by a very smart retired Army guy — who went to work at a pretty high level for the Obama campaign — that four combat brigades were exactly what we needed in Afghanistan, and that that’s exactly what his candidate was promising to send over there. OK, great — mission accomplished. Except that maybe they aren’t enough. Or maybe they’re too much. It all depends on what the definition of “mission” is.

Which, after 18 months of campaigning on the issue and nine months of being the damn CINC, you’d think Obama would know what he wants to do over there. Honestly, the only thing that he ought to still be thinking about is how best to achieve his goals — if we were still living back in March.

But already it’s half past November. And it’s looking more and more like this time we’re really going to see that harsh Afghan winter.

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