I mentioned yesterday that Obama was getting heavy pressure from the military brass to send more troops. The pressure has risen another notch. According to the always excellent Nancy Youssef at McClatchy, General Stanley McChrystal may quit if he doesn’t get the troops he thinks he needs.
Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.
“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”
Over at the Long War Journal, Bill Roggio calls this grumbling from the McChrystal team the “second shot across the bow of the Obama administration.” (The first being the leaked report, courtesy of Bob Woodward, that says we need more troops in Afghanistan.)
The threat from the McChrystal camp seems pretty significant to me. It’s really sending the message to Obama that ‘hey, you got no choice.’ One could even say that Obama is being bullied, and it’s unlikely he’s going to choose this moment to stand up to his generals.
But it also leaves me a bit confused–why is Obama dragging his feet? He can’t be too surprised McChrystal is asking for more troops–it’s what McKiernan was asking for, too–and escalating troop strength has been the conventional wisdom of ‘what needs to be done’ in Afghanistan for over a year now. He said Afghanistan is a ‘war of neccesity’ and all that, and yet still seems hesistant to take the plunge. As Youssef reports:
“There has been a sense of ownership (within the White House) in the last six months . . . an awakening,” one senior defense official said. At this stage, the administration is asking itself whether it wants to “commit the troops, civilians, dollars and itself to Afghanistan.”
So maybe there is this robust debate going on inside the White House about what to do. Perhaps ‘robust period of indecision’ is a more apt description. All the while, publicly, McChrystal and the other top military brass have already shaped the debate. As I said yesterday–do we want more troops or more troops? Now one of his generals is threatening to quit if he doesn’t get them. Isn’t that going to look bad in Woodward’s new book when Obama gives in to their demands?
BONUS SHOT AT MOVEON.ORG: I’ve criticized MoveOn in the past for their suspicious silence on Afghanistan. This is exactly why: there has been very little external political pressure on Obama against troop escalation. Sure, there are polls, and Rory Stewart, but that’s not enough. The only serious public pressure has been from one side–so, politically, it’s actually limited Obama’s options, and made the choice to do something other than escalate more difficult.