Eliot Cohen summarizes my thinking on Obama’s Afghan policy.
Ed Darrell posited an interesting position to me in a prior thread:
Do you disagree with the final number? Make the case for a different number — but don’t pretend that Obama didn’t make careful consideration, with advice from the experts. Don’t tell us he got biased information when the fact is he got as much information from all quarters as he could get.
First of all, let me state that I do disagree with the number. I don’t think that Obama has made a case as to why we should surge into Afghanistan with 30,000 troops as opposed to what McChrystal’s requested 40,000 troops. Perhaps he will release memos in the future that showed his deliberation process, but there is no rhyme or reason to 30,000 other than Obama did not want to be seen as being subservient to his own general.
That being said, I want to point you to an article Eliot Cohen wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that makes a point echoing what I stated in another thread: Obama’s Afghan decision is going to make him some unlikely friends. He also explains that there was no justification for the 30,000 troop number other than “accounting tricks”:
However, the White House’s decision to send only 30,000 troops, while calling upon our allies for thousands more—perhaps as many as 10,000—makes little sense. The Europeans have repeatedly revealed their aversion to combat. Only accounting tricks will let the administration claim that they have met these targets, and then only by bringing in inferior forces mostly constrained from real fighting by anxious governments. Should the scheme fail altogether, add one more to a list of occasions upon which America’s allies have stiffed this president with impunity.
Indeed, calling upon us to rely on the Europeans to make up for the troop number McChrystal originally asked for is an instance of cowardice. Yes, the Europeans need to step up their efforts as destroying terrorism is as important – if not more so – to them. However, this is our fight and if we are intent on finishing it we need to make a wholehearted commitment to it. That is the essential point Cohen states here:
To succeed as commander in chief, Mr. Obama must accept some unpleasant truths: that a speech is but the beginning of the leadership required of him; that, in the end, however much he may prize his intellect, he will win by his grit; that the financial and human costs of this war will undercut much of the domestic program he wistfully discussed at the end of his speech; that he will have to turn his own energies to this problem not episodically but constantly—and that in so doing he will lose old friends and have to make uncomfortable new ones.
Obama must realize that on his foreign policy, his greatest allies are the very people continues to demonize and harass. Hopefully he will see that on foreign policy conservatives are ready to stand with him and help him see this war through.