December 7, 2010

IF YOU WANTED A LEADER YOU'D HAVE VOTED FOR AN EXECUTIVE:

Our Follower in Chief?: Why President Obama’s strange detachment from Afghanistan policymaking is a big problem. (Stephen R. Weissman, 12/07/10, In These Times)

[U]p to now, he has appeared significantly detached from internal administration debate over the escalating conflict. In Bob Woodward’s blow-by-blow account of ten presidentially-chaired National Security Council sessions during the fall of 2009, (based on official Meeting Notes and interviews with participants), Obama behaved more like the moderator of a presidential debate than a chief executive with a strategic view of foreign policy.

In lengthy meetings with top advisers, Obama displayed the intelligence and awareness of substantive issues that we have come to expect. He asked all the right questions: Do we need all of the troops requested? What effect will that have on other administration goals? Should our mission be to defeat the Taliban as well as Al Qaeda? How can we do that given the overcentralized Afghan government’s pattern of corrupt governance? What impact would U.S. success have on the stability of Pakistan, and can we persuade that government to terminate safe havens for the Taliban as well as Al Qaeda?

Yet throughout, the president never offered his own opinions about how the important issues might best be resolved. And he almost never brought up any relevant perspectives on these matters gained from his reading of history, past membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or conversations with foreign leaders. When members of his team proposed answers and solutions, he failed to adequately probe the bases for their positions. For example, all the advisers agreed that a successful counterinsurgency was endangered by Afghan government corruption and meager results from military training. Proponents of military escalation offered only vague solutions such as “working” on the Hamid Karzai government (though there were “no guarantees”) or “blending with local culture.” Rather than drilling down into the details and likely consequences of these nostrums, Obama moved on.


Given that the pinnacle of his life was getting to Harvard, like the dad who abandoned him, why would he ever move on from law school debates?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2010 6:45 AM
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