Christina Bellantoni at TPM:
Details are still emerging about President Obama’s 90-minute closed-door session with 31 members of Congress today about his plan for Afghanistan, but mentioned in some stories is that Sen. John McCain had a terse exchange with his onetime rival.
While disputing the suggestion of a tense moment, sources confirmed the general sense of the exchange — and that Obama assured everyone that he was moving as quickly as he believes prudence allows.
TPMDC checked in with McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who said the senator was “astonished” by early reports characterizing the exchange as an argument because they aren’t accurate. The White House also suggested there weren’t any fireworks.
Buchanan said her boss told the president he didn’t think the U.S. could afford to “take a leisurely pace in deciding” given the recent casualties in Afghanistan.
She characterized the meeting as both somber and serious, but said it was constructive and no one interrupted anyone.
“Senator McCain does not recall the situation being that way,” Buchanan said, responding to the reports.
So reports The New York Times. But was there ever any indication that this was under consideration? He campaigned on increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and has, in fact, delivered on that promised increase. I always understood the debate to be a debate about whether or not to have a further increase, not whether to suddenly reverse a decision that was made just a few months ago
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
One almost gets the sense that the Obama team may have not learned anything from our recent experiences in two war theaters. It is not as if Donald Rumsfeld and a slew of generals didn’t try in Iraq to use the fewest possible troops, spend the least possible amount of taxpayer money, and get the most out of high-tech wizardry. Doesn’t the Obama team remember that this didn’t work, that a wholesale revision of strategy was needed and that only once a fully implemented counterinsurgency approach was employed did we achieve a victory? This sort of willful obtuseness is deeply troubling because there simply isn’t any viable military/strategic rationale for what the president is straining to do. It is a political approach plain and simple. He wants money for health care and he doesn’t want a revolt on the Left.
Michael Goldfarb at TWS:
The counterterrorism approach has been derided as the “Biden Plan” — because Biden’s support of the counterterrorism approach is itself such a damning indictment of the plan. On the other side, supporting a counterinsurgency strategy, are the commanders who’ve risen to the top of America’s wartime military — Petraeus and Mullen — as well as the Secretary of Defense who managed the surge in Iraq, and Bruce Riedel, the man who oversaw the administration’s first Afghanistan policy review. But none of these men has proposed his own plan, they are backing the assessment and proposal of the commander on the ground — General Stanley McChrystal. So are we to understand that the alternative — the “Biden Plan” — was actually crafted by Joe Biden?
Does the Biden Plan even exist on paper? When Biden pitched splitting Iraq into three separate countries as opposed to adding the troops that ultimately defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, he at least wrote an article about it. There was a column and even a website if I remember correctly. What document outlines Biden’s latest plan? What Pentagon assessment, guided by what intelligence, supports Biden’s conclusions this time? Or did General Biden just scribble this all down on the back of a napkin? And has the Obama White House become so cut off from reality that they fail to understand how ridiculous it looks to have Biden’s name attached to a strategy for the war in Afghanistan?
Of course, it’s all to the good of the country and the war effort that the White House has killed the counterterrorism approach by labeling it the Biden Plan, but if I were a supporter of that approach, as so many on the left are, I would be furious that the White House had made a fool out of me by allowing Biden to be cast as the plan’s most prominent supporter.
Rich Lowry at The Corner
The president is right: the range of options is larger than either doubling down or withdrawing. However, the point is not entirely a strawman argument, either. His military advisors have provided their considered opinion that, if a strategy of counter-insurgency is to be pursued, they cannot be succcessful without a considerably larger contingent of U. S. forces. A decision whether explicitly or by default not to increase the number of our troops in Afghanistan is arguably a decision to follow a strategy other than counter-insurgency. Deciding to pursue counter-insurgency without the resources to do so would be very imprudent and IMO this president has not exhibited that sort of imprudence to date.
Withdrawal from Afghanistan seems to have been ruled out for now. That will undoubtedly provoke complaints from within the president’s own base which he apparently has decided he can accept at this point. Whether he will pursue the strategy his generals have publicly advocated remains to be seen.