MCCHRYSTAL NOT READING FROM THE GOP SCRIPT…. When it comes to the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, President Obama and his team are taking their time. A senior administration official involved in the talks said, “A lot of decisions were made out of a sense of urgency in the previous administration, and they turned out to be wrong-headed. Examining the options, testing assumptions, reviewing everything — we’re not talking months, just days and weeks, and it is well worth the time spent.”
Republicans don’t see it that way. For the White House’s detractors, Gen. Stanley McChrystal wants additional U.S. troops. Additional U.S. troops means a “surge” (the artist formerly known as “escalation”). A “surge” means “victory.” Unless the president prefers defeat, the argument goes, he’ll stop thinking and start deploying. Obama should send troops now, and come up with his comprehensive strategy later.
And as part of the pressure, the GOP and its allies hope to use McChrystal as something of a cudgel — exaggerating differences between the White House and military leaders, talking up the notion of “rifts” and “divisions.” The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan isn’t playing along, and yesterday defended the president’s approach.
“The process,” he told a reporter who tried and failed to get him to disclose details, “of going through a very detailed, policy-level debate, is incredibly important and incredibly healthy. The president led that very effectively, and so I think this is a very necessary process to go through so we come to a clear decision and then move forward.”
Now, it’s certainly possible that the general is praising the Commander in Chief because, well, he’s the boss. But McChrystal has been willing to express his perspective in a rather candid way, and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the way Obama’s methodical approach. Indeed, at the Institute for International and Strategic Studies, McChrystal seemed to go out of his way to defend the president repeatedly, and even take some subtle shots at the Bush administration’s approach.
In related news, Senate Republicans have been pushing aggressively to compel McChrystal to testify on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but their measure failed late yesterday on a party-line vote. Spencer Ackerman explains that the GOP should be relieved they lost: “Does the GOP actually think that McChrystal is going to rebuke his still-popular commander-in-chief to curry favor with the minority party?”
McChrystal did, by the way, connect with President Obama directly this morning, meeting in person to discuss military strategy in Afghanistan. It won’t stop Karl Rove & Co. from accusing the White House of taking a hands-off approach to the war, but then again, nothing will.