So, uh... who? Who are the "very expert military analysts" who think that we can wage an effective counterinsurgency campaign with the number of troops we've got?
But Clinton was not necessarily swayed by McChrystal’s assertion that the US must add more troops to accomplish this.
“I can only tell you there are other assessments from, you know, very expert military analysts who have worked in counterinsurgencies that are the exact opposite [of McChrystal’s],” she said. “So what our goal is, is to take all of this incoming data and sort it out.”
There are a series of assumptions nested in the McChrystal approach:
1) The Afghan mission as set forth by the president is a necessary one, and the interests defended or advanced by such an effort are reasonably balanced with the necessary effort and resource expenditure
2) The most effective way to accomplish the stated objectives in Afghanistan is through a broad-based counterinsurgency effort
3) In order to effectively execute the counterinsurgency mission, more resources are required
Now all of these assertions are debatable, obviously. I'd contend that we're probably better off seeking more limited objectives with a smaller troop presence. And I think you can argue that there's a way to seek the same end-states through a different operational approach. But seriously, I have not heard a single person say "we need to do COIN to accomplish our objectives, and we have exactly the resources we need to do the job." I have not seen one person say "yeah, the status quo is cool, we just haven't gotten there yet." There have been a lot of vague noises to the effect that "we don't even have all the troops in place from the last 21,000 to go in, so let's be patient," and all that, but I'm not aware of anyone who's advocating for a broad-based, wide-ranging counterinsurgency effort and NOT asking for more troops.
There's plenty of legitimate skepticism about the first two assumptions, and debate is welcome and healthy. But on the third assumption, isn't this pretty much the specific purview or area of expertise of the military leadership, for one thing? And by appointing a guy as the senior military commander in theater, aren't you sort of saying that his "expert military analysis" is the one you want to go with?
I'm not saying that the political leadership should simply defer to generals on resource requests -- not at all. What I am saying is that once you've laid out objectives and given a mission to your military commander, it seems to me that you're going to trust his expert assessment of 1) how to best accomplish that mission, and 2) what resources are required to do so. If you want to change the mission, change the objectives, change our foreign policy, then fine. But that's not what Secretary Clinton is talking about here. She's saying that the policy, the mission, and the objectives remain the same, and that GEN McChrystal's opinion might not be the most important one when it comes to deciding how to get this done. So why is he your commander? If you decide he's wrong, is he going to be dismissed?
And who's the next guy? Who's the guy with the good idea? I mean, if there are all these competing visions (about how to do COIN with 100K ISAF troops), then... where are they? Any ideas?