First off, to America’s 24 million living veterans — Happy Veterans Day. To those serving overseas, Godspeed. To those still in uniform, stand vigilant. To those who defended our nation in previous generations, thank you for serving in distant lands to defend our freedom. (And this week, especially, thank you to our oft-overlooked Cold Warriors — who stared down the Soviets until the wall came down). And, of course, we never forget those who gave the full measure.
Second, this morning adds more color to news that has been trickling out on President Obama’s Afghanistan decision. The Wall Street Journal reports that the president is now seriously considering a “compromise plan” for 30-35,000 additional troops that would send about 5,000–10,000 fewer troops than Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested.
According to the WSJ, “the new scenario combines reinforcements for fighting Taliban insurgents with trainers aimed at rapidly increasing the size and capabilities of Afghan troops to take on more operations themselves.” A sensible “hybrid” plan, but from my reading and understanding of General McChrystal’s plan, that is exactly what he plans to achieve if given 40,000 additional forces. So why not just give the general what he wants?
There are likely many reasons why Obama won’t heed McChrystal’s exact request, among them an unwillingness to wait this long to make a decision and then just “rubber stamp” his request, as well as a desire to look nuanced with American war strategy. (The Obama administration call this “smart power.” Does that make McChrystal’s request, by default, “dumb power”?) Neither of these are good reasons, especially since the American public won’t differentiate between 30,000 or 40,000 additional troops and polls overwhelmingly show support for listening to commanders in the field. If anything, most American’s will have a “whisky-tango-foxtrot” moment about why the general’s request was slightly undercut.
As for judging the merits of this “hybrid plan,” I think we need to look to General McChrystal, Ambassador Eikenberry, and General Petraeus. If they confidently say they can get the job done with this approach, then I take them at their word. (We should also look for insight from those who got Iraq right, and continue to advise our generals in the field, among them folks like Gen. Jack Keane, Fred and Kim Kagan, David Kilcullen, etc.).
President Obama is meeting with his war council today. It’s good to hear that he is leaning toward a substantial increase in forces, which shows he is serious about winning in Afghanistan. In that case, why not give all the tools at his disposal to the troops who actually have to go about the dirty business of winning it?