While running for President and hoping to avoid the perception that as a Democrat, he was naturally soft on national security issues, Barack Obama joined the chorus of Democrats trying similarly to burnish their defense bona fides by criticizing the Bush administration for the war in Iraq--and its concomitant distraction from what they saw as "the good war" in Afghanistan, being waged against people who actually attacked us.
Most of us realized what that was then--a campaign gimmick, easy to pull given that a Republican was in the White House.
But now that the Dems are in the White House and control the Congress....the "good war" belongs to them. And it is getting ugly. Our Viceroy in Afghanistan, General (Afghani)Stanley McCrystal, recently produced a 66 page report for the President that basically says, "if we don't pour a bunch of troops in, we'll lose within a year". So that's what he gave the President--two options. Do what I want, or lose the war. Apparently the President didn't like those options--so he began some independent thinking with his national security staff. Someone--I don't know who but I have my suspicions--leaked the McCrystal report to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post--who published it yesterday. Now the cat's out of the bag and the President's got a real turd on his hands.
A couple of things:
1. This does not appear to be good staff work. Giving the President two options--this or lose--is not the way we're taught to do things. Make your staff stretch--even if it results in a low probability of success course of action--and send that COA up with a statement of low confidence.
2. This leak is dirty pool, even in Washington DC. This was designed specifically to embarrass the President and to tie his hands.
3. The President should absolutely now seek another opinion, some other options. Even if he eventually does what McCrystal asks, he is obligated to listen to other opinions. Do I have one? No. I am so out of my depth when it comes to Afghanistan it isn't even funny. But there are good, smart people out there who can help.