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Don't Rush the Afghan Debate

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
October 30, 2009
Christian Science Monitor

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As the White House deliberates over what to do about the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, some politicians, military officials, and pundits have grown tired of the wait even though President Obama is expected to announce his decision in the coming weeks.

But many want an answer now. Critics of the president, like ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, contend that "signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries." The Obama administration, however, has indicated that it believes an intensive and deliberate review is crucial to getting the strategy right.

Recent history indicates the White House is right. If Washington rushes its final decision, not only might it result in the wrong strategy, but it could also cause civil-military relations to deteriorate for the remainder of Mr. Obama's time in office. High troop estimates in the recent past have caused civilian officials to completely shy away from strategically prudent decisions and have deepened civil-military misunderstandings.

Consider what happened in 1992: Concerned about the deteriorating situation in the former Yugoslavia, civilian officials in the administration of George H.W. Bush strongly considered using ground troops to assure the delivery of humanitarian aid and deter Serbian aggression.

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