It appears that Sarkozy's nightmare is playing out in front of us. First, we have this story from the Washington Post.
It was easy to say, 'Hey, I support COIN,' because nobody had done the assessment of what it would really take, and nobody had thought through whether we want to do what it takes," said one senior civilian administration official who participated in the review, using the shorthand for counterinsurgency.
The failure to reach a shared understanding of the resources required to execute the strategy has complicated the White House's response to the grim assessment of the war by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, forcing the president to decide, in effect, what his administration really meant when it endorsed a counterinsurgency plan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's follow-up request for more forces, which presents a range of options but makes clear that the best chance of achieving the administration's goals requires an additional 40,000 U.S. troops on top of the 68,000 who are already there, has given senior members of Obama's national security team "a case of sticker shock," the administration official said.
The meetings now underway in Washington are rooted in part in the gap in understanding that became evident in March. This account of how it opened up is based on interviews with several senior civilian members of the administration and military officers directly involved in Afghanistan issues. Nearly all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about internal policy discussions.
Essentially, what the WAPO story reveals is that Obama and the administration believed in COIN in theory. COIN is counter insurgency strategy. After all, it was David Petraeus' counter insurgency strategy that lead to the miraculous turn around in Iraq. So, Obama also believed in COIN as well.
When I say in theory, I mean that Obama and his advisors never looked at the details of what COIN would mean in Afghanistan. Obama simply believed that COIN was the right way to go to victory. This is, of course, not me saying it. That's the jist of the article. Obama wanted COIN but never examined how many troops that would mean, what sort of casualties that would lead to, and certainly not what committing to such a strategy would mean in the middle of a health care debate. In that, we see Obama's naivite playing out.
Now, if you are inexperienced in foreign policy and let alone war, one might think that you would cede all decisions of strategy in war to your top General on the ground. In this case, that General would be General Stanley McChrystal. He's the one that has been spending the overwhelming portion of his time over the last nearly nine months in Afghanistan. He's developed a strategy that he thinks will win. Of course, he has more than three decades of military experience under his belt. Obama has zero.
Yet, right now, President Obama has still not committed to accepting the recommendation of his commander on the ground. Now, let's not misconstrue. Obama has plenty of advisors with military experience. Many of them maybe telling him all sorts of things. Only one, however, has spent the last near nine months in Afghanistan trying to develop a strategy for victory there. That's General McChrystal. The right thing to do when you are clearly not very experienced is to cede to the advice of the one that is experienced. Instead, Obama is developing his own plan.
President Obama is inclined to send only as many more U.S. troops to Afghanistan as are needed to keep Al Qaeda at bay, a senior administration official said.
The official, in an interview with The Associated Press, also added that the president is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan's political future, reiterating what Obama said in March.
The assessment comes from an official who has been involved in the president's discussions with his war council about Afghanistan strategy.
Aides say the president's final decision on Afghanistan strategy and troop levels is still at least two weeks away, but the emerging thinking suggests he would be unlikely to favor a large military ramp-up of the kind being advocated by his top commander in Afghanistan.
Try and put that into perspective. Here's someone that didn't realize that COIN meant more troops, more death, and a politically risky strategy. That was seven months ago, and now, he's realizing that he only understood COIN in theory. Despite a naivite that should be obvious to all, this same president is now inclined to overrule the General he chose and sent in country to develop a strategy. A lot of my liberal readers and colleagues scoffed at the suggestion that Sarkozy called Obama naive and arrogant. Who is Sarkozy to make such a suggestion they scoffed? This is no suggestion. This is a dangerous combination of naivite and arrogance all playing out in war.