Several of my colleagues on the left, particularly Mehdi Hasan, have been highly critical of Obama’s foreign policy, in particular the decision to stay in Afghanistan.
Now, I supported the attempt to get rid of the Taliban, but I’ve also maintained that Obama’s foreign policy objectives are unlikely to have been under his control all the time.
This explosive Washington Post story detailing bits from Bob Woodward’s new book, shows the extent to which he faced resistance to his plans:
Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”
Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them.
Tensions often turned personal. National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”
During a flight in May, after a glass of wine, Petraeus told his own staffers that the administration was “[expletive] with the wrong guy.”
After Obama informed the military of his decision, Woodward writes, the Pentagon kept trying to reopen the decision, peppering the White House with new questions. Obama, in exasperation, reacted by asking, “Why do we keep having these meetings?”
And I bet there was a lot more where briefings and counter-briefings in the media made Obama’s job a lot harder. He wanted out, they wanted to stay in, and there had to be some sort of a messy compromise that annoyed everyone.
The most telling bit is at the end:
Woodward quotes Petraeus as saying, “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”
Well… at least he was being realistic.
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