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Obama Got it Right

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
December 2, 2009
The Daily Beast

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The best thing about the middle course on Afghanistan set out by President Obama at West Point was that he didn't choose the other options. He correctly rejected the notion of standing pat as losing slowly and divisively. He rightly said no to bugging out as a diplomatic and political disaster. And he courageously squashed going for an all-out win as open-ended, likely to end in costly failure anyway, and well beyond any reasonable definition of American interests. His middle way is fraught with its own uncertainties and with terrible internal contradictions. It's a doubling down on a bad bet in the hope that the boost from the U.S. troop increase plus the shock of impending responsibility will spur friendly Afghans to fight as hard for their freedom as the Taliban does for its lunatic ideas.

But Mr. Obama has made the decision. It would be easy to score points at his expense. But the decision is made-and it won't be undone. Enough Republicans and Democrats will support it in Congress. So, the job of political leaders and policy experts now is to figure out how to help the president make his middle course more workable and reduce the risks of failure.

By urging this, I'm reversing a promise I made years ago after the Vietnam War. That war was the central professional experience of my life. I worked in the Senate and the Pentagon for the early years of the war. I supported the war.

 

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