It was apparent as early as the summer of 2009 that Obama had no political choice but to throw in his lot with Petraeus and McChrystal and the “full-up” commitment of troops. Only a more far-sighted regard for prudence could have drawn him the other way.
And, in fact, Obama went in even faster than the generals asked him to; and he did so, we now can see, in open disregard of the practical wisdom of the Eikenberry cables. He did it on the supposition that the sooner he went in big, the sooner he could get out big. In a flattering article by Peter Baker on the “process” of the troop decision, President Obama was quoted as saying, of a left-to-right time chart of contemplated troop deployments: “I want this pushed to the left.” That is, move them in faster. Make the whole thing fast so we can have a credible ending by 2011. But Ambassador Eikenberry had already told him why “pushing” the graph in this way was a fantasy — a case of wishful thinking to the point of irresponsibility.
It is inconceivable that a president acting on a candid estimate of the commitment he was requiring of his country, would, in response to the Eikenberry cables, finally have bowed to the generals. No one could have done so whose guiding light was prudence and the direction of a wise policy. What drove this decision, instead, was Barack Obama’s desire for an appearance of conventional solidity. He had said so many times that Afghanistan was the right war. How could he unsay it? [continued…]