Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Approach Better Than Strategy

Thank you, Hendrik Hertzberg, for explaining cogently in The New Yorker how it is when we only have
Bad Choices:
The Afghanistan strategy:

There are no good options for the United States in Afghanistan. That has been the conventional wisdom for some years now, and this time the conventional wisdom—the reigning cliché—happens to be true. President Obama did not pretend otherwise in his address at West Point last week. [...]
The botched war in Afghanistan, like the economic crisis and the broken health-care system, is an inheritance from which Obama is trying to extricate the country. In each case, the institutional, historical, and political constraints under which a President must operate mean that the solutions—or, if there are no solutions, the ameliorations—are doomed to be nearly as messy as the problems. If there is no Obama Doctrine, there is an Obama approach—undergirded by humane values but also by a respect for reality. The most telling signpost in Obama’s speech may have been neither his call for more troops nor his timeline for removing them but his use of a quotation from another President who inherited a seemingly intractable war: “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.” That was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in one of the homelier passages from his canonical farewell address, delivered the year Barack Obama was born. President Eisenhower’s point was that a nation’s security is all of a piece—that military actions do not inhabit a separate universe but must be weighed on the same scale, and be subject to the same judgments, as a nation’s other vital concerns. That seems to be President Obama’s point as well. ♦

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