Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Obama's "Dithering" Quite Welcome

President Barack Obama's most strident critics, including former Vice President Richard Cheney, accuse him of "dithering" on the war in Afghanistan. They say he has proven himself to be an indecisive leader since he cannot decide whether he should send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, as General Stanley A. McChrystal said, or leave the country altogether. Failure to provide the requested troops would, they assert, lead to Afghanistan's loss to the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist groups which provided them with the safe haven they used for planning the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks.

He was expected to endorse a smaller troop surge after his return from Asia but recent developments put that in doubt. First, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, doubts the efficacy of sending any new troops into the country. Mr. Eikenberry, the report suggests, would have the president redirect our focus from the military to the civilian theater of operations in an effort to rebuild the nation.

Second, the president himself reportedly rejected all four proposals for the shift in strategy. Mr. Obama was not satisfied since he is specifically looking for an attainable, measurable goal so that he can withdraw our forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

I don't know if this can really be done and the president will probably be criticized no matter what he does. We will be second-guessing everything which the president does. There are no good options. Losing Afghanistan could mean losing Pakistan. The Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan are connected to the terrorists the Pakistanis once considered their allies in its dispute with India. Doubling down however, adds to the cost in both both, manpower and finances. Billions of dollars could be squandered building a nation that cannot be built for an unspecified period of time before we ultimately conclude it was all for naught. The troops that might be needed elsewhere could be tied down in Afghanistan for years and the money that is wasted in Afghanistan could be used nation-building projects needed at home.

But I do find his "dithering" very comforting. He's thinking about this and he is challenging his advisers to think this through. At the very least, he doesn't want us to believe he will make a decision between flawed options that are justified by faulty or baseless assumptions.

I'll take his "dithering" over his critics gun-ho swagger any day.

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