Reading through the excerpts, about the only people who come off as calculating and restrained are Clinton, Gates and Petraeus. Obama and his civilians, to including his retired generals, all come off as rather interpersonally nasty, quick to panic, quick to point fingers, etc.
You read the Rolling Stone piece now and you can understand why there was/is so much enmity on the military side.
As always, we're stunned to hear what figures are willing to say to Woodward, but this makes Team "no-drama" Obama look awfully disunified.
My take-away: if voters don't like or don't trust Obama on the domestic/economic side, then this book does a number on any perceived salvation to be found in his foreign policy.
Heads rolled for the RS piece and frankly this seems a lot worse at first glance--like the crew as a whole is more interested in turning on each other than making something work in Afghanistan.
What I still don't get: if there is this level of in-fighting and pessimism with the current track, why aren't we speaking and dealing more plainly with regional powers, all of whom grow increasingly more concerned and seem willing (not eager) to step in and salvage something better while our troops are still on the ground? If there is this much pessimism and seeming political desperation, why aren't we seeing a more daring and aggressive foreign policy to regionalize the solution? Where are the bold steps, the secret diplomacy, the break-through agreement?
I see a lot of energy being directed toward this book by insiders eager to be viewed positively by history (although none will on this score), but I don't see any of that anguish leading to any innovation.
Instead, we get the same tired tracks from Bush-Cheney on Israel-Palestine, NorKo, and Iran, plus relying too much on Pakistan, and the sum effect of those choices means we appear unable to generate any breakthrough diplomacy with Turkey, Iran, Russia, India and China--all of whom are naturally tapped for a suitably successful wind down of this conflict. All of them will be forced by various circumstances to enter this arena directly or via proxies if and when we pull out under duress, so you know they'd all be interested in slipping into it while we're still making some effort because it would avail themselves of additional selfish opportunities. But we don't see to be drawing them in on any serious level, preferring to keep everybody on their separate tracks with their separate issues and--sure--inviting them to open their wallets at donor conferences but not much else.
I just don't get this hesitancy and lack of strategic imagination and boldness if everybody is really as panicky as Woodward's book makes them sound. These people need to get their inner Nixon on and start acting on their desperation instead of simply running to Woodward to complain.
It is a self-defeating mix to tell the world that "America can't do it all" and then act like that's the case in Afghanistan. We get this picture of an Obama administration eager to bail on the country but not eager (can anybody point me to anything on this score?) to go to regional powers and say baldly, "Listen, I'm failing here with my small coterie of friends and this thing is going to be a disaster that we'll walk away from unless we can agree on whatever it takes to get your public help and support. Tell me what it will take to get you inside Afghanistan, making something work for the long haul, and I will deliver it."
Because what is the alternative? "Standing firm" on all these bilateral issues with these countries, going down the toilet in Afghanistan, and then . . . what exactly? Somehow getting our way on these bilateral issues with these players because now we seem so much weaker and in political disarray?
Right now all we're signaling is that we want out but we're not going to compromise at all to make it happen, and for the life of me I cannot see how strategists inside this administration think that's going to work out for Team Obama politically. The comparisons to the arrogant inflexibility of the Carter administration are apt. Listening to Obama lecture yesterday at the UN was disappointing in the extreme; he seems content to play professor while his date with history is asking the waiter for the check.
We've heard this question asked time and again, "Who is the Kissinger in this crew who's going to push the president to make the tough foreign policy calls and lead when he has to?" And there doesn't seem to be anybody--just a lot of egos versus sycophants. "Amateur hour" is not too harsh a phrase. We keep receiving this image of Obama being so self-confident in his own judgment that he's not receptive to that kind of dynamic, but a book like this begins to help us understand how much that hubris limits his action and his imagination. It just seems like he keeps waiting on the world to recognize the genius of his unassailable logic--buttressed by his Nobel.
And it ain't working. Not at all.
And frankly, at some point, Clinton needs to start thinking about what's good for her country and not just this administration, because she's big enough to force the issue.
Time to stop being satisfied with "keeping all the balls in the air," Madame Secretary. Time to issue some ultimatums--as in, "Either we get bold on this or I get gone and make my own case to the American people."
Woman-up, Hillary. Because you will be judged severely for not doing more.