On Afghanistan, Obama Chooses "None of the Above"

Obama rejects all options for Afghanistan

By Robert A. George
|  Thursday, Nov 12, 2009  |  Updated 5:47 AM CDT
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Just Your Average Joe-Bama

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The continued corruption within the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is helping prevent Barack Obama from making a decision on whether to increase U.S. troop levels.

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President Obama chose General Stanley McChrystal to chart out a new Afghanistan policy eight months ago -- and we're still not there yet. 

McChrystal's primary recommendation was for a "surge" of 40,000 more troops. 

If that wasn't enough, The New York Times has outlined three primary strategies for troop increases said to be under consideration -- with McChrystal's plan being one of them.

Three of the options call for specific levels of additional troops. The low-end option would add 20,000 to 25,000 troops, a middle option calls for about 30,000, and another embraces Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for roughly 40,000 more troops. Administration officials said that a fourth option was added only in the past few days. They declined to identify any troop level attached to it.

Now the real story has leaked out. President Obama is reportedly rejecting all three options presented to him by his foreign policy and national security team. Instead, he wants an approach that takes more into account the entrenched corruption that has oozed out of the Karzai government and now permeates most of Afghanistan. 

A few weeks ago, former Vice President Dick Cheney accused Obama of "dithering" over Afghanistan. If Obama thought he had a problem then, he's really risking a public relations nightmare this time -- one that won't be confined just to conservative critics. 

The three-option plan reflected the viewpoints of not just McChrystal. It also reflected the opinions of administration heavy-hitters like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. 

In addition to "dithering," Obama now runs the risk of appearing not to take seriously the counsel of any of his advisers -- on a policy that has life-and-death ramifications. 

Yes, caution has its place -- especially when the subject is Afghanistan. Obama is also right not to accept the status quo of a corrupt Hamid Karzai-run government.  But tossing aside the hard work of the best and brightest in his  administration is bad politics and bad -- or at least random, amorphous -- policy.  Karzai's corruption problem has been known for months. That he would probably end up winning the election and remaining in power was also pretty much a sure bet. 

So, there's hardly anything that we know now that wasn't perceived eight months ago. Why didn't the president articulate exactly  what he was looking for then -- rather than have his advisers put forth three complex plans that did little to address his concerns? 

Afghanistan has a well-deserved reputation as the "graveyard of empires."  It may yet also pick up a new name -- Creator of "Obama the Hapless" as plans A,B, and C fall by the wayside. 

Exactly, how far through the alphabet will the White House go before a decision is made on what to do with Afghanistan? 

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

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