From the beginning, the call to arms was highly uncertain. On Dec. 1, 2009, commander in chief Barack Obama orders 30,000 more Americans into battle in Afghanistan. But in the very next sentence, he announces that an American withdrawal will begin after 18 months.
Astonishing. A surge of troops -- overall, Obama has tripled our Afghan force -- with a declaration not of war but of ambivalence. Nine months later, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway admitted that this decision was "probably giving our enemy sustenance." This wasn't conjecture, he insisted, but the stuff of intercepted communications testifying to the enemies' relief that they simply had to wait out the Americans.
What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn't have his heart in it. One who doesn't really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground -- meaning, the political cover -- for failure.
Until now, the above was just inference from the president's public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes. Bob Woodward's new book, drawing on classified memos and interviews with scores of national security officials, has Obama telling his advisers: "I want an exit strategy." He tells the country publicly that Afghanistan is a "vital national interest," but he tells his generals that he will not do the kind of patient institution-building that is the very essence of the counterinsurgency strategy that Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus crafted and that he -- Obama -- adopted.
Moreover, he must find an exit because "I can't lose the whole Democratic Party." This admission is the most crushing of all. (Continues here)