Monday, September 21, 2009

Worse Decision Making: Redskins or the Afghanistan Team?

The Washington Post headline this morning blared out: "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure;'" I wished they had used the headline from below the fold (about the Redskins): "First and Unsure of the Goal."
It was inevitable that General McChrystal's classified review of the situation in Afghanistan would be leaked. It was almost as inevitable that the review, as Joshua Foust put it, contains "absolutely nothing new." The most disturbing aspect of the review is that it talks about the "counterinsurgency strategy." Our commander in Afghanistan thinks that counterinsurgency IS the strategy. Shouldn't that be a red flag? McChrystal's expertise is supposedly thinking unconventionally, but his review is extremely inside the (counterinsurgency) box in its thinking: more troops, more resources, more time, full speed ahead.
At last week's excellent Foreign Policy and New America Foundation event "Covering Afghanistan:A Conversation On How It Looks From the Ground" Steve Coll expressed optimism that President Obama's team was taking a full and deep assessment of the strategic rationale for being in Afghanistan (look for my question and his answer near the end of the video). I'm still more skeptical that new thinking will emerge, though I'm slightly more hopeful after reading the Post's other article today. The key quote is:
The president, one adviser said, is "taking a very deliberate, rational approach, starting at the top" of what he called a "logic chain" that begins with setting objectives, followed by determining a methodology to achieve them. Only when the first two steps are completed, he said, can the third step -- a determination of resources -- be taken.
And he should work in that order. It's good to hear that starting to happen, although perhaps it would have been nice to start the process four or five "strategic reviews" ago, or during the transition, or in 2002. It remains to be seen who has a plan to score a touchdown first, the national security team or the Redskins. Better late than never?

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