President Obama is set to make his "final" decision on Afghanistan later this week or early next. Presumably, his public orations will follow shortly thereafter--and not a moment too soon, given the mounting angst at home and abroad about the delays and uncertainties. He has spent the last month in endless meetings brilliantly dissecting everyone's facts and everyone's arguments, including General Stanley McChrystal's. Yet, for all the back and forth, it's not clear that any of his principal national security advisers (Secretaries Clinton and Gates and National Security Adviser Jim Jones) knows exactly where he's coming out. Perhaps he's shared his gut feelings with political intimates like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod. Perhaps he still hasn't made up his own mind.
The White House does a good job of muffling presidential deliberations. And they've put the fear of God into those contemplating unauthorized leaks. So, to divine what's really going on, it is necessary to sift slivers from the either. No White House can totally squash that revealing either. Here's what may be in Mr. Obama's heart of hearts, if he could decide policy solely on the merits:
- Stick with the goal in Afghanistan of defeating, or better yet, neutralizing al Qaeda (not much choice here) through both a counterinsurgency strategy (a la McChrystal and stepped up counter-terrorism a la Vice President Joe Biden).