He who hesitates is lost, so goes the old saying. Hesitation on his war policy may leave President Obama with a grievous political defeat as well as a potential military one for the nation.
The weekend news that eight U.S. soldiers died in an Afghanistan firefight (followed by two NATO personnel Monday morning) puts more pressure on the president to come to a decision on how to deal with his own war on terror.
The president's national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, says that more forces need to be strategically directed toward defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda. This approach has also been championed by Vice President Joe Biden. On the other hand, the man in charge of forces on the ground in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal -- selected by the president only a few months ago -- is forcefully arguing for a much larger, broader troop investment, along the lines of the surge that helped us turn the corner in the war in Iraq. There is some question as to how appropriate is McChrystal's public advocating for more troops when his commander-in-chief is supposedly still in a "review" period.
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Meanwhile, the man who helped bring order out of chaos for that very policy from the last president -- Gen. David Petraeus -- is sidelined. He doesn't appear to have either the public visibility or private sway as in the previous administration.
In short, President Obama is getting advice from all sides on how to proceed in Afghanistan -- after making a preliminary decision on how to go when he originally replaced Afghanistan commander David McKiernan. While it's nice to see that this president takes in various opposing viewpoints on an important issue -- George W. Bush saw himself as the sole "decider" without appearing to suffer much opposite input -- having all of this debate and discussion on public display over military matters is more than unseemly.
Fierce public debate over domestic matters is welcome.
It's not when the issue is war -- especially as the body count of forces begins increasing.
President Obama needs to channel a bit of his predecessor's "decider" sensibility, before the American people start seeing his vaunted caution and contemplation on an issue as a paralysis of analysis that verges on fatal dithering.