Friday, September 24, 2010

Feuds in Obama's Wars are not just soap opera

Coalition soldiers and Afghan civilians are dying daily – as an insecure Obama fails to exert discipline over a sordid tug-of-war


Peter Beaumont, Thursday 23 September 2010
"....What the latest disclosures have achieved is to flesh out the deeply dispiriting picture painted during the summer – of a dysfunctional team at war with itself. They describe a president, deeply insecure about his military inexperience, who – despite his denials – was "jammed" by the Pentagon in 2009 into authorising a controversial surge in Afghanistan. Whose only options, provided by the Pentagon to consider, were whether he should increase troop numbers by 30,000 or 40,000.

Taken together, the sum of the recent disclosures suggests strongly that Obama's weak personal leadership in the debate over his Afghan policy has created a climate in which feuds between his senior advisers have been allowed to breed to toxic and damaging levels. For what is most fascinating about the disclosures from Obama's Wars is how they supply the context for much that has happened in the last year.....

What seems clear, even before the details of Woodward's book began to leak out, is that it is a battle that is far from over, with General Petraeus, McChrystal's replacement, even this week manoeuvring to throw cold water on early plans for a draw-down in Afghanistan.

But in the pathology of these things, the feuds at the heart of Obama's Afghanistan policy are simply symptoms. One expects towering egos and conflicts of ideas, arguments and rivalries – some over policy and some borne out of personality or shared history. The real problem, it is increasingly apparent, lies not with the subsidiary personalities but is located at the very top, resting in Obama's inability to bring any kind of real discipline to this feuding team, protected as some are by senior figures within his administration, including his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton....

Most damaging of all, if it is clear that the strategy for Afghanistan barely enjoys the support of those tasked with drawing it up, then how possibly can it be sold to anybody else, not least the long-suffering people of Afghanistan?"

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