The New York Times posted an extensive article on the process through which President Obama arrived at his decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Obama was "haunted by the human toll," his advisers say, and wrestled with the economic toll. One estimate claimed that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over 10 years. The "fiscally conservative" far right doesn’t bat an eye at these costs. Obama was concerned.
From The New York Times:
Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr. Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out, a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.
“I want this pushed to the left,” he told advisers, pointing to the bell curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.
When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that, betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.
The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”
Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.
We never heard President George W. Bush described as "intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest," although he may have been "deeply frustrating for nearly all involved." Obama was "deeply frustrating" for different reasons.
“I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years,” he told his advisers.
Read the NYTimes article. Any who thought Obama was not listening to his generals should take heed. He was taking them back to boot camp, pushing and challenging them more than they had been pushed or challenged before. As Commander-in-Chief, he alone makes the policy decisions in war. The generals meet the professor.
I’m with the professor and the generals.
No one gets everything they want in a time of war.