I don’t know what’s more troubling in this excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars”: The fact that a novice executive stoutly refused to take the considered advice of his senior military advisers, or the fact that the country’s subordinated military essentially refused to be boxed into what they must have known was a losing strategy:
“So what’s my option? You have given me one option,” Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command.
“We were going to meet here today to talk about three options,” Obama said sternly. “You agreed to go back and work those up.”
Mullen protested. “I think what we’ve tried to do here is present a range of options.”
Obama begged to differ. Two weren’t even close to feasible, they all had acknowledged; the other two were variations on the 40,000.
Silence descended on the room. Finally, Mullen said, “Well, yes, sir.”
Mullen later explained, “I didn’t see any other path.”
This stark divide between the nation’s civilian and military leaders dominated Obama’s Afghanistan strategy review, creating a rift that persists to this day. So profound was the level of distrust that Obama ended up designing his own strategy, a lawyerly compromise among the feuding factions. As the president neared his final decision on how many troops to send, he dictated an unusual six-page document that one aide called a “terms sheet,” as though the president were negotiating a business deal.
We’re in new territory here.
Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan, soldiers and Marines are finally launching their long-awaited offensive into the outer boroughs of Kandahar, spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.
Lions, all of them. May they not be led by sheep.