Wednesday, December 2, 2009

30K a testament to Gates' influence

According to Mike Allen's Playbook, which today has great coverage of the response to last night's speech, is generally awesome, and should be read by anyone who has even the vaguest interest in politics (and no, I'm not just saying this because he wished me a happy birthday in print once):
EXCLUSIVE -- WEST WING MINDMELD: It didn’t leak, but 30,000 was the final number that Secretary Gates took to President Obama, in mid-October -- a reminder that the Pentagon chief is the most influential member of the Cabinet, bar none. His argument with the president in this regard was dispositive. This gives POTUS an airtight alibi against claims that 30,000 is a triangulated, political number, not based on any specific brigade configuration. (Gen. McChrystal is still figuring out the mix and match of forces that will add up to his authorized 30,000.)
I find it nearly unbelievable that this didn't leak over the course of the last six weeks, especially having watched the press badger Geoff Morrell about how the recommendation process went. (Maybe this explains why he was acting so dang shifty.) Just the same, it's really interesting to see 1) just how influential Secretary Gates ended up being in this thing, and 2) exactly how much his views evolved from this time last year, when we were hearing things from him that were roughly akin to John Abizaid's "antibody" rationale for drawdown.


  1. Well, this whole surge doesn't make any sense. I've been following the analyses of some war correspondents who've been both in Iraq and Afghanistan theaters. They all tend to concur that the surge won't work in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq. Last night, CNN Michael Ware thought the whole scheme could hardly achieve its multi-pronged objectives in such a limited timeline. And what's more worrisome, CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta believes there would be more fatalities among soldiers given the scarcity and distance to health facilities in Afghanistan (in contrast with Iraq). Finally, I quote the following from NBC Richard Engel's analysis of October 7 that "demonstrates" why the Iraq-type surge wouldn't work in Afghanistan:
    "The situation in Afghanistan, however, is completely different. There is no unified group asking for protection. There is no Afghan Awakening Movement. McChrystal, Petraeus’ man on the ground in Kabul, wants Afghans to take up arms with him against the Taliban and other militants, but many Afghans see no reason why they should. Afghans aren’t asking for American protection."

  2. Alex, there are dozens of reasons why Afghanistan is fundamentally different than Iraq, and blind application of what worked in Iraq would be asinine (although the degree to which the security dilemma was the dominant dynamic in Iraq depends an awful lot on when and where you're looking). But since that's not what we're talking about, it's a straw-man argument.

    And after 5 minutes listening to Michael Ware spout off half-truths with unjustified certitude last night, I'd suggest you judiciously apply the mute button whenever he appears.

    You're better served by the critiques offered here by Gulliver and Gunslinger, and by the guys over at Kings of War.

  3. "And what's more worrisome, CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta believes..."