Following the politics of this decision making process concerning the "new" strategy in Afghanistan by the Obama administration has been maddening to say the least. It hasn't at all been comforting, to me at least, that the general on the ground seems to have a very minor role in the process. Or that suddenly Afghanistan's politics have taken center stage.
Let me be very frank here. I've worried, since this administration took office, that despite all of the campaign rhetoric that there was little seriousness backed by even less experience in war fighting. Instead the rhetoric was more useful for beating up the other side for political purposes.
So I put together my own metric as to how I would judge whether or not the Obama administration was serious about prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. If they were serious, an assessment would be made, a strategy agreed upon and, based on the recommendation of the general on the ground, assets would be allocated (to include those from the proper civilian agencies) to prosecute the war according to the agreed upon strategy.
If they weren't serious, we'd see a lengthy "assessment" process, dithering on strategy and troop strength, an unwillingness to commit to a strategy and any extraneous excuse the administration could find to delay a decision. Then, when they did make one it would be short of the recommended one and just enough to keep Afghanistan afloat until the politics here were favorable (i.e. re-election secure) to pull the plug.
Initially, it looked like I was seeing a president who was serious about the war there. In March President Obama announced a new strategy and he also appointed a new general. He even committed more troops to the fight As far as I was concerned that indicated a president that was now walking the walk. He took all the steps necessary to take ownership of the war.
But when Gen. McChrystal did his commander's assessment and requested more troops he was essentially ignored. Then the alternative strategies pushed by the likes of John Kerry and Joe Biden - suddenly experts in military strategies - came to the fore. We also heard that the decision on what military strategy we were going to pursue depended heavily on the outcome of the disputed election in Afghanistan. And then it depended on a run off. Meanwhile, the Obama administration finally met with the JCS for the first time only a few days ago. And what came out of that, apparently, was a request for more information - a province by province assessment.
But, back to the runoff election in Afghanistan. It appears, at least at the moment, there won't be one. Abdullah Abdullah has said he'll boycott it.
So now what? Will we put together a military strategy, announce it and commit to it and begin the process of fulfilling it. Or will this be used as yet another excuse to delay such a decision?
On Monday, in address to the personnel at NAS Jacksonville, President Obama said he would not be rushed into making a decision. He said, "I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary". He went on to say, 'because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission and the defined goals as well as the equipment and support you need to get the job done."
All true. But missing from all of that is the fact that we presently have thousands of troops in Afghanistan whose lives are already at risk and remain at risk pending a decision. We have everyone and their brother saying that the theater is undermanned - putting those there at further risk.
And they remain at this heightened risk as the interminable decision making process goes on.
His aides now tell us he'll announce something between Nov. 7th and 11th. Will he? If so, and if it is a well thought out and viable strategy, I'll withdraw my objections. However, if he finds this latest electoral reversal in Afghanistan to be a reason for further delay and dithers some more, I'll be forced to conclude that this isn't about fighting a war, but instead about politics and protecting his electoral viability. And if that turns out to be the case, I will be unsparing in both my condemnation and criticism.
President Obama was duly elected by the people of this country to fulfill the duties of the office of President. Among the most important is that of Commander-in-Chief. It's time he stepped up and assumed that position. And Mr. President, that means you have to do two things that haven't been evident to this point - lead and make decisions.