For an amusing read, check out Walter Shapiro’s analysis of how all the behind the scenes “tick-tock” narratives about President Obama’s Afghanistan decision were produced. Shapiro concludes that it’s a stretch to say that Obama’s decision took much courage–it was kind of the easy way out, in fact.
Obama’s Afghan decision may prove to be the best of the flawed options available. But it is hard to argue that there was anything inherently bold about Obama opting to rush 30,000 men and women to Afghanistan (plus NATO reinforcements) rather than the 40,000 troops originally requested by General Stanley McChrystal. Kennedy, Johnson and their best and brightest advisers routinely declared that leaving Vietnam was not an option. Obama did exactly the same thing with Afghanistan, but, of course, this president was profoundly influenced by the lasting lessons of Vietnam.
That may be why Obama’s advisers have to stretch to portray the stuff of greatness in the president’s Afghan decision-making. As the Los Angeles Times first reported and the New York Times honored as its lead anecdote, Obama’s breakthrough moment came when he pointed to a chart outlining a gradual escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan and dramatically declared, “I want this pushed to the left.” Even if you go with the LA Times version, “I want to move this to the left,” the Obama line calling for faster deployment desperately needs a script doctor. Somehow “I want this pushed to the left” lacks the emotional grandeur of, say, “We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds. . . . We shall never surrender.”