This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
When fighting a war, ambiguity is often useful; ambivalence, never.
The disputes that led to the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week exposed a little too much ambivalence about Afghanistan in the Obama administration. Among the revelations in the Rolling Stone article that brought down McChrystal was his cavalier – even contemptuous – attitude toward Joe Biden, AKA “Who’s that?”
Biden apparently doesn’t think much of the official strategy in Afghanistan. He opposed the build-up of troops Barack Obama has approved and had instead argued for a much smaller anti-insurgent strategy with a short half-life.
Obama has linked an American withdrawal from Afghanistan to July of 2011. No one – maybe not the president himself – knows the precise nature of that link.
In a new book, “The Promise” journalist Jonathan Alter quoted Biden as saying, “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.” But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called that date “a starting point,” and that any withdrawal would depend on what’s actually happening on the ground.
Obama may be on the same page. On Sunday, he said the United States won’t necessarily “suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us” on that magic date.
But the president isn’t saying anything concrete about how fast and under what conditions the troops would be pulled out – all we really know is that he’s being far more vague and guarded than the loose-lipped Biden.
Read more »