In the fierce debate on Afghan policy under way in the White House, the all-or-nothing types--both liberals and conservatives--have already lost. President Obama seems to be groping for some middle approach both on overall strategy and troop increases. The danger with middle courses is that they can turn out to be just a jumble of compromises and incoherent mush. But there is a middle policy on Afghanistan that is coherent and can meet a reasonable array of American interests in South Asia and around the world.
If you watch television news or read most newspaper stories, you would think that a battle is raging between champions of a 40,000-troop increase and opponents of any increase in ground forces at all. But judging from the tidbits emerging from the sanctum sanctorum, U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has already lost his campaign to add 40,000 new troops to the 68,000 already approved. He lost because 40,000 is far too much, given the costs and political opposition to such a big increase at home--and because he made the fatal mistake of going public last week in London to fight for his cause.
The White House was furious at his trying to corner the president. You'd never know how angry White House officials are from the mild public rebukes. National Security Adviser James Jones, himself a former four-star general and commandant of the Marines, noted that McChrystal should proceed "through the chain of command."