McChrystal Gone, Obama Saved

There was no way Gen. McChrystal could save his job without the president sacrificing his.  Now, will Obama fire all the aides quoted in the story?  It shouldn’t be hard to find out who they are.

The downside, of course, is that the general, once his inevitable retirement occurs, and his aides will talk, and not kindly of the administration.  That will add fuel to the partisan fire that Obama is over his head in foreign affairs and as commander-in-chief.  But he would have heard that if he kept the general, along with accusations that he was weak.

Obama does not make decisions quickly, nor does he change strategies at the drop of a hat.  But this may be seen as a pivotal point in his presidency where he begins to assert himself more forcefully.  We may see it soon with the climate change bill.  I doubt that as much as the GOP will try, McChrystal’s firing will hurt the president.  In fact, maybe some independents will see that he has some cojones.

One can only hope.

Post Writers Read Obama’s Mind?

One of the greatest responsibilities a president has is to decide to send American women and men into combat.  He should make that decision on his own, after carefully considering all the information and opinions of his advisors.

Anne Kornblut and Greg Jaffe make a call I’m not sure they have enough evidence to make.  They seem to be reading Obama’s mind.

The military chiefs have been largely supportive of a resource request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that would by one Pentagon estimate require the deployment of 44,000 additional troops. But opinion among members of Obama’s national security team is divided, and he now appears to be seeking a compromise solution that would satisfy both his military and civilian advisers. [emphasis added]

“Appears to be seeking a compromise”?  That, if true, is a damning observation, and surely will seized by Republican critics.  A president shouldn’t be arbiter-in-chief.  He shouldn’t “satisfy” his advisors. He should make the call based on what he thinks is right, not try to find middle ground among his advisors.

But that might not be the case, as there is nothing in the story to suggest he is looking for a compromise.  I’d love to know why Kornblut and Jaffe make that call.

Afghanistan Trade-Offs

Not all trade-offs are logical, and certainly this one can be argued.

In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.

Could be naive. But,

…Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” has now built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan — and not one has been burned down or closed. The aid organization CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban (although local communities have temporarily suspended three for security reasons).

Before you conclude that education is not the answer, consider one group that does.

When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group — Islamic extremists — believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrassas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahhabi madrassas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don’t see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don’t invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.

It might not be a panacea, but we need to ensure we are making an investment in educating Afghans and Pakistanis.